You know how we, as black people, have been telling everyone how awesome it is to be us for generations? They tried not to hear it. Even while they stole our music, swiped our fashion, and purposely tanned themselves to mimic that color they claimed to hate so much. To get that melanin!
I’m a dark-skinned man. In terms of complexion, I’m somewhere between Morris Chestnut and Taye Diggs. So, in other words, I look as good as Morris and Taye. No further questions.
But, so many of us have that story of how terrible it was to be so dark and have that stigma attached to the skin we were born in. I got beat up and hated on even by people in my own family. My birth mother once said my skin was “unlucky” and that it would hold me back in life. I allowed that thinking to fester in my mind for decades. And it held me back tremendously.
The great thing, however, is that I love my deep-chocolate skin, and I am saddened that I wasted so many years hating it. Here’s why.
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Melanin Prevents AMD
Age related macular degeneration (AMD), is just the natural worsening of eyesight, blurry vision, etc. I wear glasses, my dad has glaucoma, and I have various family members with eyesight-related issues that require cannabis use…I’m sure. *Cough* Yet, even with all those issues, my parents found it relatively easy to catch me with a shoe whenever I was doing something wrong. Like, scary accuracy. Shoes would fly around corners and attack my ass with the force of a Mike Tyson punch. Weird. Even physics bows to the wishes of a black grandmother’s shoe, I suppose.
Most of us have beautiful, full brown eyes. So, it can be assumed that this means people with brown eyes have it made in the shade, so to speak. However, while most scientists agree AMD is much more common in white persons than in persons of black African ancestry, the influence of iris color has been more controversial.
And I’ve searched to learn if any study is consistent, and iris color alone doesn’t universally show a better or worsening of eyesight. What that means is that if you happen to be black and have light-colored eyes, you still have a greater chance of losing your eyesight later in life than your Caucasian counterparts. Thanks, Melanin!
Coily Hair Helps Temperature Regulation
Nappy hair. We’ve all been there. The struggle was named “the struggle” due to this. Remember Mom trying to tame that tangle with a dull comb, a glob of blue Ultra Sheen, and a kung fu grip because she knew you wouldn’t stay still? Well, you should be glad to know that we’re lucky to have these locks of love. Numerous health benefits come from having curly, coily, kinky hair. Ours was the original hair. We sometimes forget that. Therefore, it only makes sense it would be the most adaptive for hot environments.
Outside of getting wet, our hair stays naturally fluffy, coiled, keeping out those pesky UV rays we keep hearing about. The helix-like nature really makes it difficult for heat and rays and increases circulation of cool air directly to our scalps. Neat, huh?
There’s this adorable image of a little boy touching Obama’s hair to see if it felt the same as his. And that feels good, to me. Of all the things I never imagined I’d see was a black president not only dancing, singing, and sitting behind the desk of the highest position in the free-world—a little chocolate kid being lucky enough to rub his hair, just to check if they both matched was probably at the top of that list.
Sadly, random people grabbing our hair has long been a concern, an assault on personal space and, it seems, a way to further control our bodies by ignoring boundaries, as if it would be just as acceptable to do it to some random white or Asian person. People have been so extra, for so long, that it inspired a woman to create a video game for women tired of random hands grabbing at our precious locks.
It’s addictive as hell, so I highly recommend you try out Hair Nah.
In it, you chose the shade of brown of your avatar, her hair style, and the location: Osaka, Havana, or Santa Monica Pier.
The creator, Momo Pixel, told Essence “it’s literally happened to every black girl I’ve met. Even while making this game it happened to me, multiple times.” I’ve been lucky enough as a black man to only have experienced the phenomenon of random folks grasping and fluffing out my ‘fro only a couple times. But I work out a lot and have been told I appear threatening, so I assume that’s what keeps the vultures at bay.
Melanin Protects You From the Sun (Black Don’t Crack, right?)
It’s a saying as old as… I dunno, forever. My dad looked like my brother until well after I graduated high school; unfortunately, I still look like I’m in high school, so who cares? Just kidding, just kidding. I love having youthful skin, because I’m 31 now and I know the future looks pretty bright that I’ll still be a youthful 51 or 61.
Our beautiful melanin acts like sunscreen. Not that we didn’t know that already. How often have you taken your white friend to the beach and watched them bathe in SPF 451 and still come out looking like undercooked fish meat? Or they look like Sebastian from The Little Mermaid and you just can’t help bursting into “Under the Sea” in your worst Jamaican imitation.
According to anthropologist Michael Muehlehbein in Human Evolutionary Biology, through evolution, human skin developed protection against the sun’s harmful rays. Melanin does this by absorbing “high energy forms of electromagnetic radiation UVR and ionizing radiation, and to neutralize the chemical by-products when cells interact with these agents.”
Scientists believe melanin helps keep harmful toxins from the body, so you can stop putting Robitussin on everything!
Melanin & Human Reproduction
What’s more important to us earthlings than the ability to gestate life? As far as I can tell, with a world population at a little over 7.4 billion as of this writing—check out the population counter because it’s pretty dope—and you’ll see that a child is born every 8 seconds somewhere on the planet, nothing is more important to humanity than giving birth to humanity. 11 deaths per second. And America comes in at number 3 on the list, with 326 million inhabitants. Gosh, science is fun.
In Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color, Nina Jablonski notes: “Women need folate to maintain healthy eggs, for proper implantation of the fertilized egg, and for development of a healthy placenta after fertilization. It is also essential for all aspects of fetal growth and organ development water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and whole grains, and it was known at that time that.”
Now, because folate is produced by melanin, I’m hoping you’ve already guessed who has the greatest advantage when it comes to nurturing healthy babies, in ideal conditions, that is. Many people of the Caucasoid persuasion have higher birth rates because of socio-economic benefits, but if all things were equal, black and brown women would absolutely have the best of all possible birth worlds.
Protection From Hearing Loss
I always had at least one uncle who couldn’t hear to save his life. Didn’t you? But then I also always had even more uncles who would say “Huh?” just enough times to catch you in some lie. They’d hear you just fine the first 3 times, but not know you were lying until that fourth time around. And that’s when the belt came out. “Shouldn’t have took that Twinkie, Carla,” they’d say, with the stellar African American eagle eyesight.
Scientists at the Federal Institute for Occupation Safety and Health suspect that brown skin reduces the risk of hearing loss tremendously. Melanocytes, which produce melanin, are present in both the skin and cochlea, or the ear area. And “epidemiologic studies of large population-based cohorts have consistently demonstrated lower rates of hearing loss among black than white participants with the odds of hearing loss generally 40–60% lower in black individuals.”