Why Can’t I Find Any Unsweetened Tea in the Black Community?

African Americans are more likely to suffer from heart disease than any other group of people. Black people are disproportionately harder hit by heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Each year more African American women die more from heart disease than breast cancer, lung cancer, and strokes combined. African Americans have the highest hypertension rate than any other group of people anywhere else in the world.

Can you imagine what it is like to be a black person and watch news broadcast after news broadcast and listen to story after story report information such as this? It is very hard not to listen or read these reports and not ask is there something wrong with us? Is there something about our generic makeup that makes us more likely to be prone to diseases of this nature? I am a doctor of education and although my field of study and areas of expertise require that I engage in study with the same level of rigor as a medical doctor, medicine is not my chosen field of study. I am saying all that to say that I do not speak to this topic from a medical perspective but more out of sincere concern for the well-being of the students that I serve and the adults (parents and community members) that serve as their first teachers.

So now that I have stated the obvious, and what we have all come to know as true, I will speak to what I refer to as one of the root-causes of the problem. I would like to address a basic factor but an important one that has bothered me for many years and I want to talk about it. Because of the nature of my work, I move about the universe in both predominantly black and white neighborhoods. In fact, from a professional perspective, I have had the honor for example, of working in school districts serving a greater majority of white students, in another district serving a greater majority of Latino students and in districts serving a majority of black students.  I have not only contributed to the districts where I have taught or led, but I have also seen a lot.

I know what it is like to work in a district where the resources made available to the students and their teachers were plentiful. I have also served in districts serving majority black students where the resources were not so plentiful.  I however, want to talk about the communities that surround those districts, and my experience with fast food chains (which I do not visit as often as I used to, because it is just not healthy to do so every day). The experiences are related to my love of tea. Both hot tea and cold tea. I absolutely love tea, yet what I have found is that far too often I am unable to obtain unsweetened tea in the drive-through or inside the fast-food chain restaurants where the greater majority of the people that live in the community are black.

This is something that I have observed for many years and have wanted to speak publicly about for a very long time now. I literally began to make it an experiment over a two-year time span as I moved about. I would roll through one drive thru in the black community and ask for an unsweetened tea, only to be informed that it was not an option and that only sweet tea was available. Then I would literally on the same day and within just a few minutes’ drive a few miles or so away (moving closer to a community serving majority white people), and without hesitation, it would be made available to me. This happened time and time again for over a two-year time span, so how can I not talk about it?

The bottom line is this. I see this as a form of bias to be quite frank. Regardless of the ethnic backgrounds of the owners or managers of the establishments, this negatively contributes to the factors that shorten the life expectancy of Black Americans and respectfully, I would like to see something done about it. I would like to see there always be an option and ideally, I would prefer that unsweetened tea be made available for public consumption with the option to add sugar as one sees fit.

Far too often my people are living in what is referred to as food deserts with limited access to grocery stores and Farmers’ Markets, so there is little to no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. In this instance, fast food chains that offer food at much lower costs than high-end restaurants, become the main source of nourishment. Therefore, it remains imperative that the providers of food via fast food restaurants consider the well-being of the people that they serve by making a concentrated effort to address issues which negatively impact the social, emotional, and academic well-being of the students that I have served and the adults in their community; with the end result being to extend the life expectancy rates of black Americans as opposed to negatively contributing to it.