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Analyzing four stereotypes Blacks believe about themselves

Jordan Crawford | 2/6/2014, 10:49 a.m.

Every culture has its stereotypes that its members find offensive. Media outlets can perpetuate these beliefs and keep them alive for decades. But sometimes, members of those communities perpetuate them on their own.

There are certain stereotypes about the Black community that are believed and passed down, not by outsiders, but by folks within the Black community itself.

Continue reading to find out if some of the most popular self-perpetuated Black stereotypes are fact, or fiction.

Black people get “the itis” after eating

Short for the more offensive term “nieritis,” the term is used in both the United States and Caribbean to describe the routine of becoming sleepy after eating a large meal. “The itis” is jokingly said to affect Blacks more than any other group. The term also implies that the person who has “the itis” is lazy, and often too fatigued to return to work after their mid-day meal.

So is it fact or fiction? It depends.

According to Dr. Mark Mahowald, former director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Hennepin Medical Center, and current professor of neurology at University of Minnesota Medical School everybody gets sleepier during early to mid-afternoon.

“There is no racial difference in the sleepiness we all experience,” he said. “Most humans have their body clocks set to become sleepier between midnight and 6:00 a.m., and again around noon. Many people erroneously attribute this mid-day sleepiness to their big lunch, sitting in a dark room, hot weather, or a boring meeting.”

However, these things do not cause sleepiness or “the itis,” they simply bring out the mild sleepiness that was already there from their intrinsic body clocks.

“This is why cultures wiser than ours have picked that time for their siesta, or nap time,” says Mahowald.

Studies have shown increased sleepiness after eating meals high in carbohydrates or fats, but others show no effect.

One theory used to explain widespread post-meal drowsiness among Blacks is given the predisposition for sleepiness during those times, that any group of people that are also exposed to the heat after eating a large lunch, without taking a nap is set up for “the itis,” so to speak, says Mahowald.

The fact that both now, and decades ago, Blacks in the United States and the Caribbean have been overrepresented in outdoors work during warmer climates, makes this theory a strong possibility.

In a subset of Blacks, a condition called obstructive sleep apnea could play a role. Overall, it tends to affect people who are obese, but Blacks are more affected despite body habitus.

People with obstructive sleep apnea stop breathing several times during sleep, for seconds at a time, usually due to obstruction from the tongue, fat around the neck, or in the case of many Blacks, the natural construct of their airways – the nose, throat or adenoids. Because of the lack of restful sleep, people with this condition are often sleepy during the day. This also increases the risk of decreased alertness in the setting of the other factors already mentioned.