Sunday, June 28, 2009

It’s true – the whole world came out of Africa!


Driving upcountry from Nairobi a few years ago, I stopped at a village to ask directions. As we stood talking, I felt someone take my hand and looking down saw a small boy scratching my skin with his fingernail. He was looking for the blackness.

We all smiled but maybe the toto knew more than we did. For today, it is widely accepted that the human race originated in Africa – specifically in what today is Kenya or Tanzania – giving rise to a slew of scientific studies and magazine articles with headlines such as, “We’re all out of Africa,” and “We are all African now.”

What the scientists tell us is that small bands of humans sailed across the Red Sea about 50,000 years ago and established Stone Age cultures throughout Europe, Asia and Australia. New DNA research along with archaeological evidence, including an analysis of some 6,000 skulls, laid to rest the idea of multiple origins.

Introducing a study of the skulls held around the world in academic collections, Prof Andrew Manica of Cambridge University wrote in Nature magazine in 2007 that “We have combined our genetic data with new measurements of a large sample of skulls to show definitively that modern humans originated from a single area in sub-Saharan Africa.”

So if we all started out black, doesn’t that make racism not just nasty but plain stupid?

This conclusion raises an obvious question: If humanity originated in Africa, why do white people have a different skin colour, pale eyes and often blond hair?

The answer is Vitamin D. Those who lived in a colder climate with less sunshine needed to process more Vitamin D and their bodies did this by lowering the skin pigment melanin which blocks solar radiation and limits the intake of the vitamin. Blue eyes and blond hair are just by-products of having less melanin in the skin.

So if we all started out black, doesn’t that make racism not just nasty but plain stupid? There are many different cultures but only one race. To widespread horror here, two members of the racist British National Party were elected to the European Parliament in the recent elections.

True, there was no great swing to the fascists and they would not have got in were it not for a very low turnout for the main parties. But if the thought of racists and anti-immigrant thugs representing us in Brussels goes against the grain, let us look at the ironies: the forefathers of both these men were migrants themselves and without a doubt as black as your hat, too.

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