Africa is an interesting place. It is funny how everything takes a unique meaning when it comes to the black continent. Of course, issues always have special meanings everywhere, but they often take far-fetched and self-conflicting interpretations when it comes to Africa. The subject of black Africans with blue eyes did not lose this dramatic disposition, considering that it is a rare eye color in a continent where the majority see through brown bulbs.
In Africa, every matter is considered from a spiritual viewpoint first, and when it is studied pragmatically, it is usually because the spiritual approach had no explanations. Yet, because the continent cherishes the idea of a supernatural significance to everything, it continues to nurse the possibility of a spiritual interpretation even when practical approaches turn up logical answers.
The Myth About Blacks With Blue Eyes
The subject of black people with blue eyes and blond hair has enjoyed a generous share of attention from the controversial continent. In Africa, it is a subject loaded with myths, and the only thing more surprising than the stories is that they are taken seriously.
One of the most popular myths about a black person with blue eyes is the claim, in some African communities, that some evil spirit possesses such a person. In August 2020, Punch, a newspaper in Nigeria, reported the story of Abdulwaisu, who abandoned his wife and two daughters because they were born with blue eyes.
His wife, Risikat, who was born with the rare eye color, told the newspaper that the husband never felt estranged by her apparent uniqueness, but when the first daughter was born with the blue pigmentation, he stopped talking to her. The straw that broke the camel’s back landed when the second baby arrived with the same pair of sapphires. Encouraged by his family, who saw the children as abnormal, Abdulwaisu left his wife and kids.
Surprisingly, the story above happened in Ilorin, Nigeria, where a good number of the residents buy contact lenses at street corners. Wearing contact lenses is considered fashionable, particularly among the female gender who use it to momentarily give rarity to their ubiquitous brown eyes. Therefore, it is both intriguing and irreconcilably controversial that the color girls pay money to buy its illusion, Abdulwaisu abandoned his daughters for having the original. But at the same time, his actions buttress how deeply the myths about blacks with blue eyes run.
Against what is obtainable in Africa, in Europe and America, it is a thing of pride to possess eye colors different from the regular browns. Mainly when it is blue, the rarity and attendant admiration it attracts are arguably one primary motivation behind contact lenses. People want it, and since genetics was stingy with it, science, as always, became the shortcut.
The Fact, or What Seems like It
Speaking of science and genetic, researchers claim that blue eyes were not naturally occurring but only surfaced for the first time about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago through a genetic mutation. These researchers concluded that blue-eyed people are all tied to a common ancestor by this mutation, including people of dark skin, blue eyes ethnicity.
According to the study they conducted at the University of Copenhagen, the team of scientists traced the mutation down to the OCA2 gene, which is the gene responsible for producing melanin. Melanin is a pigment that determines our skin, hair, and eye colors depending on its abundance or lack in a particular individual or race.
Commenting on the research, Hans Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University said, “Originally, we all have brown eyes. A genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a ‘switch,’ which literally ‘turned off’ the ability to produce brown eyes.”
Eiberg further explained that this genetic switch is located in the gene adjacent to OCA2. Instead of shutting down the activities of OCA2 completely, the switch only limits melanin production in the iris, thereby adulterating the natural brown eyes to blue. The explanation seems reasonable, particularly in the case of black Africans with blue eyes. If the switch had shut down the entire activities of the OCA2 completely, then their skin, hair and eyes would also lack melanin totally, resulting in albinism.
Davenport and Davenport conducted the earliest study on people with blue eyes in 1907. The team concluded that a recessive allele was responsible for blue eye pigmentation and that two blue-eyed parents can only have blue-eyed children. However, when they learned that their data included hazel-eyed children from blue-eyed parents, the team said their hazel eyes must “be of a blue type.”
When Eiberg and his colleagues published the detailed report of their study in the journal, Human Genetics, criticism followed it like Davenports’ and every other study done earlier about people with blue eyes. Many opinions argued against the accuracy of Eiberg’s conclusion that the mutation originated from the northwest coast of the Black Sea. To buttress their points, they say that Eiberg’s study data did not include people of African tribes with blue eyes. They further argued that since some evidence proves that Africans migrated to Europe some 40,000 years ago, there is a possibility that the eye color was long existing in Africa before they brought it to Europe.
Unlike Ebola, which nobody wanted to claim, and Covid-19 which China would deny if they could, the fact that African parents can have a black baby with blue eyes riled up a little racial tussle between the Caucasians and Blacks. Both races refuse to agree on the origin of the sapphire eyes, despite what science says. As expected, humans would always want others to quote them as the origin of anything desirable or fashionable.
Also, the claim that the majority of blue-eyed people are Caucasians faced counter debates a few years ago by people who labelled such a claim as another expression of white superiority. They argued that the population of Caucasians is small, and while it appears like there are more of them with blue eyes, it may not necessarily be true. Many who argue against this claim expressed how ridiculous it seems that the whites quickly assert themselves as a majority, especially regarding genetic traits that are considered desirable.
The irony, however, remains that most people who debate against Eiberg’s conclusion are Africans dragging a sack of myths that stand even against those who have risen to fame as black models with blue eyes. These reality makes it questionable if their arguments are backed facts or plain jealousy.
Aside from blue, which is the holy grail so far, many people currently desire eye colors different from the usual brown. The simple evidence is the creation of contact lenses. Eye color is a prominent descriptive feature, especially among blacks, where the dominant color is brown. Black celebrities with blue eyes flaunt their assets like gifts from a benevolent God. Although some evidence shows that some blue eyes are caused by a disease called Waardenburg Syndrome, many African girls envy black female model with blue eyes.
Finally, what we know is that the myths about black Africans with blue eyes are clear. It is the facts that remain blurry. And any chance we have at separating the facts from the myths depends on the humility to consider the issue with an unbiased mind. Come to think of it, does it matter if the eye color originated from Africa, Europe or even Mars? Of all things, the topic of black Africans with blue eyes should be a scientific debate, not a racial one.