African-Americans' aversion to cold temps

It seems that many black people are sensitive to cool temperatures. I have many many examples. The latest is at work. My black co-wokers get angry whenever people turn on the AC and it is below 85 degrees. It’s “too cold”. I also hear them say that a natural consequence of getting too cold is catching pneumonia. They admit that their sensitivity to cold is biological.

Well, is there any truth to this? That African-Americans are significantly sensitive to cold temps, compared to other races? And are they more likely to get sick from getting cold? Futhermore, I thought the belief that one can get sick from cold temps is just a myth, especially something as serious as pneumonia.

If it isn’t something biological, it must be cultural, I guess. If so, when and why did this start?

If it was cultural, bear in mind that they were imported to pick cotton in the southern United States.
That was where most of them stayed for centuries after the event.
If the slave trade had been importing African slaves to Canada for the Moose Farming industry, these same associates you mention might get ticked off any time the weather got above 74 degrees…

You could just as easily say “Italians” as “african americans”.

When in Rome last December, people were wearing thick insulated jackets and scarves when the weather was in the 50s and 60s. My wife and I were pretty amused by the spectacle.

I think it’s a matter of what you’re used to. Is this true about African Americans who have lived in northern climes their whole life?

The summer before last I was in French Polynesia (to see a total eclipse of the sun), on a boat. Of course, since that is in the southern hemisphere, this was what passes for winter in those parts. It was amusing to all concerned that the northerners were enjoying the refreshing nighttime temperatures of about 65 or 70, but the locals were bundled up in jackets, shivering.

In answer to your other question, it appears that cold weather does not directly cause colds.
However, coldness can cause vasoconstriction in the nasal passages that can lead to dryness which in turn compromises our ability to filter infectious agents.

I have heard that dry air can cause microscopic fissures in our mucus membranes which can allow viruses and bacteria easier access to our bodies. This seems to match the data found in the above link.

African Americans are disproportionately represented in southern climes. There’s hardly any other explanation needed.

People become accustomed to the climate they grew up in. What I would consider a fairly normal summer day, say 28c/80F with lots of humidity, would be an appalling scorcher to someone from Edinburgh. Conversely, 38c is absurdly hot to me but not a big deal if you’re from Riyadh.

I’m European and a few years ago I was studying at a university in Manchester. It was a mild winter morning and I was walking to class wearing jeans and T-shirt, when crossing a footbridge I met an Arab looking man coming the other way bundled up with a woolen hat, scarf and bulky jacket…I imagine we were both thinking the same thing, “Look at that crazy bastard…” :smiley:

Before all the haters come in (I may be too late). I have to say that I grew up in a majority black community and this idea was not scoffed at. I knew people that worked in the electric/gas company’s customer service. When people called up and complained about the heating bill, one of the first question they asked was what temperature is it inside your house (hearing values in the 80s was not uncommon). It was just accepted that black people kept their houses warmer. Everyone there was local so it had nothing to do with them being from somewhere even more south.

Even if they have lived in northern climates for a long time, artificial heating can make temperature preference a cultural thing.

When I used to manage apartments, I once responded to a complaint about condensation on the windows. The woman living there had the thermostat cranked to 85. (Which is the highest number the thermostat had on it. I could believe it was even warmer than that.) Given that this is near Seattle, she must have had her heat going every day of the year.

I’m not going to make any comparisons to race, but I will say that, if one’s parents grew up in the South and then moved North, they might keep the heat at home much higher than “normal.” Their kid born and raised in New York might be acclimated to a very different set of temperatures than the neighbor’s kids

This is similar to where I was thinking.

My wild idea:
Think back a few decades, blacks were obviously more poor, and they would have been the last to get A/C to cool their houses in the summer. If they lived the whole summer in the heat, they are going to be more acclimated to the heat by the time winter comes around,so they kept their place warmer in the winter.

Because of the lack of A/C for the summer months, their temperatures preferences was just shifted up 10 degrees or so from the (richer) white folks.

Almost everyone in the south has A/C, but habits and climate preferences change slowly.

It’s a southern thing. Personally I’m a lifelong southerner and I love cool weather, but I have many friends and relatives who when the temp gets down to 60 degrees you’d think an Arctic blast was setting in. Just like the comment above about Rome, we had a mild cool spell last week with temps in the 50s and many (not all but many) people- black and white, younger and older- were wearing heavy sweaters, hooded jackets, gloves, etc… When the weather really does get cold or freezing the same people bundle to twice their normal size and act like they’re walking through a zombie filled mall when they go outside (i.e. get outside, get to where you’re going fast as can be, don’t look around and don’t look back).

No idea if it’s genetic. True, my own ancestors (and while I like cold weather my sister and cousins hate it) spent centuries in the heat of what’s now the southern U.S., but before that most of them came from Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Switzerland, Germany, etc., where they’d lived for thousands of years so you’d think the pre-set would tolerate cold. OTOH, black people’s black ancestors came to a hot climate from a hot climate so perhaps they are genetically more sensitive, but otoh ancestries are very mixed down here…

I’m going with cultural.

And the false connection between cool=cold/flu/pneumonia is universal.

My parents and grandparents grew up in Alabama without air conditioning. They were not used to it in any way, and my grandparents worked outside in the heat.

When these people got AC they hit the road running. My father and grandfather especially would keep the house nearly freezing in mid summer. The “we weren’t used to it” thing didn’t apply to AC (or to television); they got used to it quick and permanently.

Would that this were a given. Then Asimovian and I wouldn’t always struggle to find a mutually acceptable thermostat setting.

Well, most of the folks in my family (who, as it happens, are black) definitely get cold easily. I am the freakish exception in the family, as anything above 70 degrees is uncomfortably warm. I had the thermostat in our apartment set to 68 degrees until we got our first electric bill recently.

On the occasions I’ve had to be in colder weather, particularly below freezing, I am in heaven. I know it makes no sense. And yes, I get asked all the time how and why the hell I’ve lived in Los Angeles all my life.

Don’t use this particular phrase in Italian-American neighborhoods.

There are certain old views about Italian-Americans that can create …difficulties.

I’m thinking of “Do The Right Thing”…

One item I recall, discussed why there are fewer black swimming champions, despite their obvious success as runners. One suggestion was that generally black people have less body fat than similarly athletic whites or asians; this due to their evolutionary need for less insulation.

Of course, if the people complaining about this look more like Momma from Momma’s family, then obviously this is not relevant.

So…did they suddenly gain the ability to pay higher utility bills in the wintertime???

??? What do you smoke?
In the summer months, my (richer) white folks family had no A/C. By your example, our preferences should have shifted up, as well. Didn’t happen.

Oh good. Another “Black people do this” thread. How I love these.

I’m black. And I get cold easily. But I never thought it had anything to do with my race. And although I get cold easily, I would not say I have an “aversion” to it. I just put on a sweater.

It’s funny because I loved living in NJ, where the winters would often serve up some nice snow days. But I wilted under the Florida sun. Grew up in Hotlanta and always hated the summertime hell. Give me the northeast and the mid-Atlantic over the Deep South any day!

There are plenty of black people who live in “cold” places. Detroit, Chicago, NYC, DC…these places aren’t exactly tropical.

Yay, I get to expound on my theories on the genetic differences between the races.

I read a book several years ago, I believe ‘survival of the sickest’.

http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Sickest-Medical-Maverick-Discovers/dp/0060889659/ref=cm_rdp_product

But the argument was that since blacks stayed in Africa while other races left for other climates (including people who left for Europe during the last ice age 10,000+ years ago) that blacks do not respond as well to the temperature variations. The author talked about other ideas in the book too, how diseases of today helped us survive the black plague and ideas like that.

I have no idea how much they controlled for racism in this study on soldiers during the Korean war (because despite them saying all the soldiers had equal access to warm clothing, realistically you can assume the black soldiers would be short changed back in the 1950s) but in 1951-1952 in Korea white soldiers had 5.8 cold weather injuries per 1,000 while black soldiers had 35.68.

http://books.google.com/books?id=s5smqFkTmcIC&pg=PA222&lpg=PA222&dq=black+soldiers+frostbite+korea&source=bl&ots=k9USYKwRi1&sig=I5d5fPx3FZV1ZKg1VkR_TREg7bY&hl=en&ei=lomwTpO-Iqrb0QHe-p2hAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
Here is another fun fact from that book. Black people make far less vitamin D than white people (about 10x less per amount of sunlight) due to more melanin. But they have more folic acid since UV light breaks that down. It has to do, in part, with the nutritional deficiencies seen in different historical environments (but I don’t know how big a factor that was). The relative lack of vitamin d may explain some (but not all I’m sure) of the higher rates of CVD and type II diabetes among blacks seen today.

http://anthro.palomar.edu/adapt/adapt_4.htm

Also white people have names like Lenny while black people have names like Carl. Celebrate diversity.