An Oklahoma sports announcer prompted widespread disbelief and outrage when he blamed a racist outburst on his Type 1 diabetes.
Matt Rowan was announcing a girls’ high school basketball game—and assumed that his microphone had been turned off—when he unleashed the ugly tirade. There’s no need to reproduce his odious comments here.
The initial comments were bad enough, but the story may well have died locally had Rowan not released an “apology” that absurdly blamed his rant on diabetes. Here’s the text:
I will state that I suffer Type 1 Diabetes and during the game my sugar was spiking. While not excusing my remarks it is not unusual when my sugar spikes that I become disoriented and often say things that are not appropriate as well as hurtful. I do not believe I would have made such horrible statements absent my sugar spiking.
The claim—that hyperglycemia could cause one to make bigoted remarks—went viral instantly, and was met with both incredulity and anger throughout the diabetes world:
Becoming racist is NOT one of the side effects I warn my patients about if their diabetes isn’t controlled.
— Aysha H Khoury MD MPH FACP (I-sha Koo-ree) (@ayshakhoury) March 13, 2021
As a huge supporter of JDRF, Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, does not cause racism. No matter how high or low your blood sugar spikes, it doesn’t make you say racist things. Only hate causes that.
— Mystery Solvent (@MysterySolvent) March 13, 2021
JDRF, the leading Type 1 diabetes advocacy group, was one of several organizations to correct the record: “There are a lot of symptoms of high blood sugar, racism is not one of them.”
The ugly situation also sparked plenty of humor:
— Tarah (@T_BunchaNumbers) March 14, 2021
Wilford Brimley in heaven after hearing Matt Rowan blame his racist bullshit on diabetes pic.twitter.com/0BhK4TE2qu
— ?Sunshine? (@tangerineskiez) March 13, 2021
For those less familiar with the details of diabetes: yes, wild blood sugar swings, either up or down, can impair your judgment and change your behavior. But no, diabetes doesn’t put racist thoughts into a non-racist head!
Many people with diabetes immediately assumed that Rowan was experiencing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Hypoglycemia is dangerous and can have swift and dramatic effects on one’s behavior, and it’s often said to make sufferers irritable and quick to anger. Even readers with perfectly functioning pancreases should be at least somewhat familiar with the feeling: nowadays we call it “hangry.” Hypoglycemia can feel like hangry to the nth degree.
But actually, Rowan claimed to be experiencing hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), generally considered a less acute and dramatic condition. Hyperglycemia certainly has its own effects on mood and function: it is usually associated with a sluggish and foggy feeling, and it definitely impairs cognitive function. But until Rowan published his ridiculous apology, nobody, to our knowledge, had ever said that it can make you racist.
There’s a famous Latin phrase, in vino veritas (“in wine there is truth”), which describes the way that alcohol makes one reveal truths that they might try to conceal when sober. This is probably the most charitable explanation for Rowan’s outburst—if diabetes can be blamed for anything here, it is for causing him to voice deeply-held opinions that he’s usually smart enough to hide from the rest of the world.
One Twitter user explained this neatly with a personal example:
My dad had type 1 diabetes, he once tried to use whipped cream as spray sealant. Never went on a racist tirade though… Dad was a fixer so he “fixed” things when he got loopy. This dude is racist so he he racisted when he got loopy.
— Jim (@jim_the_okie) March 12, 2021
A top reddit comment had it: “Maybe his diabetic rage revealed it, not caused it.”
Or maybe diabetes never had anything to do with it.