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And make no mistake, obesity is sickening and killing a lot of us.

According to The New York Times, which quoted city health department figures, about 70 percent of black New Yorkers and 66 percent of Latino New Yorkers are overweight or obese.

Obesity is what drives chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. According to the Office of Minority Health, the heart disease death rate for black people is 239 per 100,000 compared to 180 per 100,000 for white people.

And diabetes is ravaging black people. The rate of black people being treated for terminal kidney disease as a result of diabetes is 368.7 per 100,000 in the diabetic population, compared to 151.7 per 100,000 in that same population for white people.

Soft drinks are major contributors to obesity. They have no nutritional value, and can even harm bones and teeth. It’s not unusual, in fact, to see young children in poor communities with rotted primary teeth. Many get that way because they drink a lot of sugary fruit drinks and sodas.

In a way, it’s kind of sad that small businesses in communities of color have to rely on selling unhealthy things to people in order to compete. Maybe an answer is to find a way to help those stores push healthier products and become a catalyst in changing the consumption habits of the people they serve.

There must be another solution – because the problem for the NAACP right now is that it’s trying to serve two masters. If it cares about health reform, it looks hypocritical for it to oppose legislation designed to help people take charge of their health.

Because ultimately, even the small businesses the organization claims it’s trying to protect by opposing the sugary drink ban won’t have many people to sell to – especially if  diabetes and other illnesses caused by obesity continues to kill off their clientele.

Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her @tonyaajw. Or visit her webpage and blog, “Tonyaa’s Take,” at

(Photo: AP)

COMMENTARY: The NAACP is Trying to Serve Two Masters  was originally published on

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