Elections & Voting
The political leanings of white-skinned mutants
By Kerry Tomasi
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Apr 18, 2008, 00:14

One of the more interesting books I've read recently is "Survival of the Sickest" by Dr. Sharon Moalem. The book explores various maladies and adaptations that exist within modern humans, and proposes various hypotheses, based on scientific studies, to explain what evolutionary pressures may have led to things like diabetes, hemochromatosis, and high blood pressure. The mechanism by which evolutionary pressure becomes adaptation is through the hypermutation of genes known as transposons, or "jumping genes," which scientists studying the human genome have determined make up a significant percentage of our DNA.

One of the book's chapters deals with the relationship between sun exposure and folic acid, vitamin D, and cholesterol.

Rather than try to summarize, the following are a few excerpts from that chapter:

"The skin . . . is the largest organ of the human body . . . responsible for important functions related to the immune system, the nervous system, the circulatory system, and metabolism. The skin protects the body's stores of folate, and it's in the skin that a crucial step in the manufacturing of vitamin D takes place.

 . . . the wide range of human skin color is related to the amount of sun a population has been exposed to over a long period. But darker skin isn't just an adaptation to protect against sunburn -- it's an adaptation to protect against the loss of folic acid. The darker your skin the less ultraviolet light you absorb.

Skin color is determined by the amount and type of melanin, a specialized pigment that absorbs light, produced by our bodies. Melanin comes in two forms -- red or yellow pheomelanin, or brown or black eumelanin -- and is manufactured by cells called melanocytes. Everybody on earth has around the same number of melanocytes -- differences in skin color depend, first, on how productive these little melanin factories are and, second, what type of melanin they make. The melanocytes of most Africans, for example, produce many times the amount of melanin that the melanocytes of Northern Europeans produce -- and most of it is eumelanin, the brown or black version.

Melanin also determines hair and eye color. More melanin means darker hair and darker eyes. The milk white skin of an albino is caused by an enzyme deficiency that results in the production of little or no melanin.

 . . . As humanity was evolving, we probably had pretty light skin, underneath a similar coat of course, dark hair. As we lost hair, the increased exposure of our skin to ultraviolet rays from the strong African sun threatened the stores of folate we need to produce healthy babies. And that created an evolutionary preference for darker skin, full of light-absorbing, folate-protecting melanin.

As some population groups moved northward, where sunlight was less frequent and less strong, that dark skin -- "designed" to block UVB absorption -- worked too well. Now, instead of protecting against the loss of folate, it was preventing the creation of vitamin D. And so the need to maximize the use of available sunlight in order to create sufficient vitamin D created a new evolutionary pressure, this time for lighter skin. Recent scientific sleuthing reported in the prestigious journal Science goes so far as to say that white-skinned people are actually black-skinned mutants who lost the ability to produce significant amounts of eumelanin.

 . . . In 2000, an anthropologist and a geographic computer specialist combined their scientific disciplines to chart the connection between skin color and sunlight. There was a near-constant correlation between skin color and sunlight exposure in populations that had remained in the same area for 500 years or more.

 . . . Interestingly, their research also proposes that we carry sufficient genes within our gene pool to ensure that, within 1000 years of a population's migration from one climate to another, its descendants would have skin color dark enough to produce folate or light enough to maximize vitamin D production."

The reason I've taken you on this brief biological journey is because we're in the midst of a presidential election where one of the three candidates just happens to have more of the brown or black eumelanin than the other two. Taken within the context of what you've read above -- that skin color is simply a genetic adaptation to generational sun exposure -- one might assume this melanin difference would be a minor, if not meaningless, distinction to the voting public.

Unfortunately, I don't think that's the case. Judging from my own personal experience -- interacting with friends, family, and acquaintances -- it appears to me that a good percentage of those who would otherwise be inclined to support Barack Obama, due to his many and exemplary attributes, are not going to do so because . . . well it goes something like this:

"There's just something about him that I can't quite put my finger on, something troubling . . . no, no, no . . . it's not what you're thinking, goodness gracious no! It's just that . . ."

Now, before you go all 'Ferraro' on me, allow me to state right up front that I also believe that those who would support a candidate purely because he has the most eumelanin, with little regard to anything else he stood for, are doing the same disservice to the candidate, themselves, and the system.

But this composition is long enough as is, so I'm going to limit my address to one side of that narrow spectrum; those who would otherwise support him, but are grasping at anything they can to find fault, and alleviate themselves of that "burden."

Here are a few examples of the more commonly used rationale:

  • "Did you hear what he said about small town folk who have seen their jobs disappear? Quote: ' . . . it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.' Bitter and frustrated?! How dare he! We're not bitter, we're grateful we live in the US of A, the best country in the whole wide world! Or at least it used to be until they shipped all our jobs overseas, and ran up this massive deficit, bankrupting the treasury for generations to come, and deregulated the financial industry, threatening our so-called "retirement" savings, and got us stuck in Iraq forever, and gutted the Bill of Rights, enabling them to declare martial law on a whim, and . . . Well, the point is, we get down on our knees several times a day to thank the Good Lord that we were able to stock up on guns and ammo before we were laid off, so we'll at least be able to defend ourselves against the hordes of foreigners, ragheads, and coloreds coming to take what little we have left!"

  • "I was leaning his way until I read about those things the pastor of his church once said. For Obama to not jump up and slap that guy right then and there, then storm out and find himself another church . . . All I can say is, if anyone of authority in the Catholic Church did anything as unsavory, I for one would be the first to leave. Sure, some of them have been buggering little boys on a regular basis for decades, but at least they didn't say bad things about America while they were doing it!"

  • "I heard he might be a closet Muslim, just waiting to get into a position where he can declare this a Muslim country, then have all the Christians dragged out of their homes and shot! Did you see him in that 'Aunt Jemima' outfit he wore while visiting Kenya? They say it was traditional tribal garb, but it sure looked kind of spooky, in a jihadist sort of way, to me. And did you know his biological father was a Muslim? Admittedly his parents divorced when he was 2 years old and he rarely saw his father again, but hey . . . 2-year-olds can absorb more than you think! What if he believes he's a Christian, but deep down inside he's a fanatical Muslim and doesn't even know it? Do you want to take that gamble?"

  • "What about his failure to wear an American flag on his lapel? What does that say about his patriotism? And has anyone even bothered to check to see how many yellow ribbons he has on his car? How come the liberal media hasn't investigated this? Could it be they don't want us to know this most crucial of details? "

Yes, the 'arguments' seem pretty thin, especially coming from those who, in all likelihood, would wholeheartedly support Obama if only he had a little less of that black or brown eumelanin showing.

Look, I know there are, or seem to be, grounds for suspicion, resentment, and outright prejudice against certain members of our society. But is the amount or type of melanin a person happens to produce a good reason, on its own, for doing so? Would you hold a brunette or brown-eyed person to the same standard? Dark skin comes from the exact same biological process that produces brown eyes and hair. So why aren't we repeatedly hearing the comment, "I don't think the United States is ready just yet for a brown-eyed president"?

If you think about it, it makes just about as much sense.

We can do better than this, can't we?

Why not just vote for whoever you think has the best chance of steering this country away from the devastating course Bush & Co. have put us on, regardless of what type or amount of melanin they produce.

Don't succumb to age-old stereotypes and prejudices and waste what may be the only shot we have to turn this thing around before it's too late.

The future you save might be your own.

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor