Tuesday, July 28, 2015


The problem I’m having with the debate (or truly, lack thereof) about racism is that no one is really talking about the underlying issue, the faulty logic behind the whole thing. At the core of racism is the idea that one person is superior to another person because of the color of their skin. Let’s really look at that.

Here’s some information about skin color from the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History.*

“Variations in human skin color are adaptive traits that correlate closely with geography and the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

As early humans moved into hot, open environments in search of food and water, one big challenge was keeping cool. The adaptation that was favored involved an increase in the number of sweat glands on the skin while at the same time reducing the amount of body hair. With less hair, perspiration could evaporate more easily and cool the body more efficiently. But this less-hairy skin was a problem because it was exposed to a very strong sun, especially in lands near the equator. Since strong sun exposure damages the body, the solution was to evolve skin that was permanently dark so as to protect against the sun’s more damaging rays.

Melanin, the skin's brown pigment, is a natural sunscreen that protects tropical peoples from the many harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays can, for example, strip away folic acid, a nutrient essential to the development of healthy fetuses. Yet when a certain amount of UV rays penetrates the skin, it helps the human body use vitamin D to absorb the calcium necessary for strong bones. This delicate balancing act explains why the peoples that migrated to colder geographic zones with less sunlight developed lighter skin color…

There is also a third factor which affects skin color: coastal peoples who eat diets rich in seafood enjoy this alternate source of vitamin D. That means that some Arctic peoples, such as native peoples of Alaska and Canada, can afford to remain dark-skinned even in low UV areas. In the summer they get high levels of UV rays reflected from the surface of snow and ice, and their dark skin protects them from this reflected light.”

So human beings evolved different skin colors based on where they lived on the surface of the earth. Period.  

But you know what human beings have in common? We all have the same stuff under our skin. We have the same internal organs (of course there are some obvious differences between the sexes), the same miraculous systems that somehow keep us alive, allow us to feel joy, and to think, and to learn, and grow, and grieve, and love.  We all have a heart whose beat enlivens us and whose feelings can be hurt by harsh words, judgements, and actions. All these wonderful, miraculous things are held together by our beautiful, multicolored epidermis.

Within we are the same; heart, soul, emotions, mind, and spirit, on the surface we are different colors. Let’s celebrate both our similarities and our differences.