Lactose “intolerance”

Some folks may accuse me of being “politically correct,” and yet, I insist that how we discuss issues reveals and shapes how we perceive these issues.

Case in point today: Lactose “intolerance”

I’m guessing that some European-descent person came up with this label.

On a Google Image Search for “lactose intolerance,” I received some diagrams explaining the problem, some maps showing areas where it is more or less prevalent, and images of people who most appear to be of European descent. In other words, pictures of people who come from areas shown on the maps where people who are more “tolerant” of lactose as adults.

The real problem

As pointed out by Mark Kurlansky, author  of Milk!: A 10,000-Year Food Fracas, “In nature, we aren’t meant to have milk past weaning.”

The ability to adequately digest milk as an adult is a genetic quirk primarily found in white, northern European populations and their descendants.

Why this matters

If you are a white Euro-descent person, you are likely to have been blessed to be “lactose tolerant.”

This is another example of how characteristics of whiteness have become the norm, with everyone else being the deviation from the norm.

So I’m not out to chastise anyone for saying “lactose intolerance.” I use this as an invitation to look for the many ways we have white-normative  language embedded in our language and perhaps, too, in our perceptions.