The recent BBC article, “Dark skin ‘does not block cancer’,” is a wonderful opportunity to write about a larger issue in the rasx() context. After you read the BBC article consider these:
- Traditional, authentic Africans often use pigments, oils and mud to protect/decorate their skin under the sun. Protection from the sun and ceremonial/poetical decoration of the body seems a strange combination to an analysis-biased people.
- The BBC article helps sell sunscreen products to a “larger market.” The previous sentence in no way suggests some simplistic payola relationship between one or more multi-national corporations and the BBC.
- The BBC article does admit that people with wealthy amounts of melanin get melanoma largely on the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet. I deliberately use the word ‘admit’ because to me the article avoids suggesting that having melanin in the skin is of any worth outside of jargon-filled sentences. It would be so difficult for young people “of color” to read between lines to find any worth regarding their inherited physical nature—especially when many young people have difficulty reading in the first place. Hey, kids, we get one crude, Spartan sentence: “Very dark, black skin has a natural SPF of about 13 and filters twice as much UV radiation as white skin, for example.” Shut up and be happy.
- The BBC article does not take into account that “dark skinned” people in the United States are “mixed” with Caucasian genes, and many other genes from non-African pools.
It is this last point that is most important. Failing to understand this is of the racist mentality of those struggling against racism. When I was a young white liberal, I permitted the thoughts of “pure” Blackness to run wild around my mind. With maturity and experience—especially in intimate relationships with women—I found that the same hypothetical white person can live inside of anybody of any skin color. And as many of us “pure Blacks” get older we may be embarrassed to find ourselves with osteoporosis, Crohn’s Disease—and, yes, melanoma (among many other ailments supposedly of European origin).
When you get through being offended by the phrase ‘hypothetical white person’ look into in “Basic Black: The Funky Sutra” to see something else… Now, my high school was King/Drew Medical Magnet. During my time there (when the school was just a bunch of small bungalows and parked trailers) we learned about the “hypothetical 70-kilogram man.” The real-world politics behind this “scientific” phrase is that the “hypothetical 70-kilogram man” is actually the hypothetical white male. It’s a waste of my time to try to show any person over elementary school age that what we know as “modern medicine” is based on research biased toward the physiology and psychology of this hypothetical man. And, when he gets melanoma, everybody in the whole world should too. We don’t want to hurt his feelings… He has nuclear weapons…