DOES COLOR MATTER?
“If a man isn’t black enough, he can’t be a brother.” That’s what the ESPN commentator, Rob Parker, who is black, said about black rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III. (Parker was later fired for saying that.) Yet in China, some women begin at an early age, to shield their skin from the sun because the whiter they are, the more beautiful they are considered to be. In fact, in some countries, light skin is so highly prized that women endure plastic surgery to accomplish their goal.
Michelle Obama is called a brown-skinner black woman, but L’Oreal is said to have required Beyonce to lighten her skin for their hair-color ads.
Many Caucasians¹ spend hours in the sun or tanning booths to be darker— yet white people are being repeatedly warned about the harmful effects of the sun on their pale skins. Dark-skinned people have a much lower rate of skin cancer than do light-skinned people.
Anthropologist Dr. Margaret Mead has done studies involving Australian white and black children. She found that black children have greater amounts of neuro-melanin than white children. In her study, she learned that the increased neuro-melanin effected memory abilities causing black children to have a higher IQ than white children.
The truth is, color does matter. Western Australian anthropologist Nina Jablonski has written on the evolution of skin color with some enlightening discoveries. She and her geographic systems specialist husband found that in actuality, skin color is contingent on vitamins. As an example, consider vitamin D. It is crucial in helping us absorb calcium and making our bones strong, though too much can be harmful.
Jablonsky theorized that people who migrated to the north where sunlight is less strong became light skinned in order to absorb more vitamin D from the ultraviolet rays. People in the tropics were dark skinned to help keep out the rays and prevent toxic overexposure.
Folate is a water soluble vitamin in the B family. It is especially important in fetal development. Jablonski discovered that an hour of intense sunlight in a tanning booth will cut in half the amount of folate in a fair-skinned woman. The fetuses of women with low levels of folate are at higher risk for neural-tube defects.
It has been determined that dark skin prevents the depletion of folate. Thus, fewer dark-skinned babies are born with spina bifida and other spinal cord defects. Folates are also crucial in the development of sperm. (contraceptives have been developed using folate inhibitors, but were so effective that they destroyed all the folate in the body.)
As studies continue, it becomes more and more apparent that there are scientific reasons for differences in skin color. Why then is lighter skin perceived as more desirable?
Entertainment-world audiences seem to favor lighter colored skin tones to darker ones, while Caucasian skin has come to symbolize wealth and sophistication.
As civilization moves ahead, one wonders what we will look like in generations to come. Since we are all of one blood, science will be able to establish which skin tone will produce the healthiest of us. Will that also become the most socially acceptable?
The world is becoming smaller and as the races continue to mix, some predict we will end up one color with varying degrees of lightness and darkness.
The question remains— will one color tone be preferred over the other? Will prejudices persist?
Caucasians¹ —of or relating to the white race of humankind as classifies according to physical features. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary