Skin color isn't just a mark of ethnicity or a perfect tan
"She must be mixed race." "No! She is definitely Asian." "He is Black."
That is the kind of world we live in. A world of colorism. And this world of ours is black and white. We even include yellow to this short list of ours. Since time immemorial, most people have continued to use skin color as a determinant of race. But is that all skin pigmentation denotes?
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Maybe in the social world. But in the scientific world... there is an intricate relationship between a person’s skin color and the environment. Science also reveals to us the important role skin pigmentation plays in human reproduction and survival in general.
Looking back to our ancestors who lived in equatorial Africa, when they lost body hair and moved to the open Savannah, their skin color became darker in order to shield them from UV radiation. Therefore, the dark skin of Africans is as a result of perfect adaptation to that kind of environment. Its not just a suntan. Its one of many of nature’s achievements to ensure survival of the human race.
In the year 2000, Nina Jablonski, Anthropologist at Penn State University proposed a study to explain why the human skin has different colors. According to her study, skin pigmentation doesn’t protect us from cancer. It mainly assists the body to maintain the balance of Vitamins B and D which are very crucial for reproduction and development of the body.
When the skin reacts to sunlight, it produces vitamin D. Then again, Folic Acid (a kind of Vitamin B), which our bodies require to produce DNA and develop the neural system can be destroyed by the same sunlight or UV rays. Because of this, skin pigmentation developed to create the perfect compromise by allowing the right amount of sunlight to stimulate the production of vitamin D while subsequently protecting the body from UV radiations which destroy Folic Acid.
For many many years, skin color has adapted to our local environments. However, in the global world we live in today; and so much movement of people far away from their local environments, many of them realize that their skin color is not suited for their new environment. Lucky for them, they can survive well in these new settings; thanks to vitamin supplements, sunscreen creams and lotions, and appropriate clothing to cater for the mismatch between skin color and the environment.
The beauty about Science is that it plays major role in shaping our views about the world. And now we can look at skin color from a whole new perspective. Its more than just a perfect tan… more than just a marker of race and ethnicity. Therefore, its high time we stopped judging others on the basis of their skin color coz much as doing so is morally wrong, definitely it is Scientifically WRONG! The evolution of skin color is entirely an adaptation to our local surroundings.
Instead of cracking our brains so hard trying to figure out what ethnicity that stranger is, why not use this new Scientific revelation to help us stamp out racism and embrace the human race and all its diversities.
For more understanding on this topic, watch the film "Skin Deep"
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