Black People, Vitamin D, Sleep Quality, and White Supremacy

Adequate Vitamin D levels affect duration and quality of sleep. And Sleep quality has a tremendous impact on health and well being. Many darker skinned people, especially those living in the “developed world” suffer from deficient Vitamin D levels. No doubt, this chronic condition creates a cascade of negative effects leading to diminished health in the melanin rich.

Global centers of wealth favor proximity to cloud strewn cities in the North. White supremacy designs a world that prioritizes a singular relationship to the sun. Generalized fear of too much UV radiation leading to skin cancer, fashion that completely covers the skin, desire of air conditioned indoor working environments, and beauty standards that favor lighter skin combine to create adverse health for the brown and black hued. This extends far beyond the poorly melanated. I know Brown people with relatives who tell them not to go outdoors so they don’t get too dark. I know Black people who still have pictures of a White Jesus or other light skinned holy figure in their places of worship. Colorism woes.

Its real and objective light skin privilege revealed by the amount of Vitamin D in one’s blood. To be able to thrive in an environment that prioritizes sun sensitive individuals is a huge benefit. I mean, its almost like having lighter skin is a kind of disability. I apologize for my ablelism (sarcasm). Humor aside, this a matter of perspective and a reflection of the constant dance of light and shadow. Vitamin D deficiency is even a problem among white people so you know that its especially so for brown and black.

How could society change to ensure darker skinned people receive the needed 300 min of winter sun exposure of produce adequate Vitamin D? Better yet, what do you have to ensure your health? What are the consequences of beauty trends that favor lighter skin and sexist ideologies that frown upon the exposed skin of women? Our relationship to the sun – how close we live to his rays and how much we expose ourselves to her touch – is an essential relationship to the quality of our lives.

So you people of onyx hues, people of red clay, people of hay, sand, and gold … how will you adapt your lifestyle to ensure your survival?

According to my research, I need 30 to 300 minutes of sun exposure everyday due to produce good Vitamin D levels depending on season, weather, and location. I’m type V on the Fitzpatrick scale. Wearing clothing that covers my skin or living in a place far from the equator leads to less vitamin D and worsening health. Spending long amounts of time working in front of a computer indoors has lead to my own vitamin D deficiency. I

I’ve also learned, the vitamin D produced from sun exposure is much more effective than vitamin D in supplements and food. I’ve yet to research light therapy products that produce UVB rays for Vitamin D generation.

Vitamin D deficiency can cause a cascade of health effects. I’ve witnessed insomnia, depression and other mood disorders, obesity, anemia (low blood iron), hypothyroidism, cancers, weakened immune system, fatigue, stroke and other
issues that could simply be caused by not having enough of this hormone. Basically Vitamin D is so crucial that its imbalance can cause a cascade of harmful reactions to the body.

Melanated people need to go outside, exposing as much skin as possible to sun daily to maintain good health.

I feel so rejuvenated after spending time in the sun. There’s a period of intense relaxation followed by a solar euphoria. The dangers and anxiety around skin cancer is for those with lighter skin. The predominant danger for melanated people is not enough sun. Religious, anti–black, and classist (Yes classism is a thing even though its showing up as misspelled by my autocorrect. If you haven’t heard of this do some research) values that link full body clothing to respectability are harmful to fully melanated humans. This is especially true for women of color who’s bodies are heavily sexualized making skin exposure socially unacceptable and dangerous in certain situations. We also see lingering elements of colonization where indigenous peoples are considered savages if they go about with little clothing.

Now I’m not saying to go from one extreme to the other. I have gotten sun burden before (at the top of a sun temple) and Black folk can and do get skin cancer. We don’t need to go out and sunbathe nude everyday. Wait. That… actually… doesn’t sound that bad… at least every once in a while. I think about stories from my Grandmothers where they were told to expose their breasts to the sun to help their nipples recover from suckling infants. Safe places to receive sun medication doesn’t sound that bad at all. It is essential for Black health to adopt a lifestyle that prioritizes a relationship to the sun which considers clothing choices, proximity to the equator, and occupation to address these issues. White supremacy, colonization, internalized racism, and social ostracism are challenges to the path forward.

Personally, I’m working toward changing my lifestyle to address solar dilemma. Grandfather sun longs for my presence and yearns to teach me some needed wisdom. I think about all my years of school being indoors for most of the day. My innervision shows me outdoor schools where Black people welcoming the sunshine as a friend rather than an enemy. Oh yeah, and you Black and Brown folks living up North… y’all better come down to the equator in the winter.