Stuck In The Middle: African-Americans With Albinism Don’t Know Where They Fit In

Skin color is a big deal; not because it should matter what a person’s skin color is, but because it does matter, both institutionally and in one-on-one interactions. There are measurable inequalities that exist because of a person’s skin color as a result of historical injustices and straight-up bigotry. Although some people would like to claim color-blindness, the fact is, a person’s skin color can indicate important things about who they are and how they experience life.

It can indicate their country of origin and their culture, and it can also indicate their lived experiences of oppression and discrimination. If skin color significantly affects a person’s identity and lived experiences, then how doAfrican-Americans with albinism (white skin) identify? How are they treated?Where do they fit in within the skin color inequality structure?

First-hand reports from African-Americans with albinism are similar to those of other white- and light-skinned children with dark-skinned parents, likemixed children with dominant white-skin genes: they are constantly asked if they were adopted, or if their parents are actually theirbaby-sitters, for example.

An albino African-American woman named Natalie Devora who grew up in Oakland, California told NPR, “Everyone was brown, and then there was me. I’m a white-skinned black woman … If we were out doing something as simple as buying shoes, it would be, ‘Whose child is that?’ ‘Are you baby-sitting that child?’ My older brother would joke, ‘Someone left you on the doorstep and rang the doorbell and left.’” Can you imagine how confusing and hurtful that could be for a young child to hear?


African Children With Albinism Are Often Bullied For Their Skin Color

African Children With Albinism Are Often Bullied For Their Skin Color
Dr. Murray Brilliant, director of the Center for Human Genetics at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, told NPR, “Human beings define race as an important factor in identity. It’s very important for people to have a group identity and albinism can complicate things.” The NPR host explained, “There is little written about dealing with albinism or its psychological effects. In popular culture, albinism is often depicted negatively in a slew of books, movies and television shows.”

Some African-Americans with albinism try to overcompensate for their lack of pigment to “prove their blackness,” but end up feeling frustrated and confused. “Color does matter, unfortunately,” said Devora’s 20-year-old daughter, who is black. “People with albinism arein the middle of it because everyone around them is asking them what color they are and where they fit in.” Unfortunately, without a more structured supportive community, many folks of dark-skinned heritages born with albinism are left feeling like outsiders in their own communities.


Written by PH

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