This website focuses on pain. Pain is the topic here. I started it to document my back pain resulting from a combination of very serious problems including broken vertebrae, cracked discs, etc. And, I discussed my rehab from spinal fusion surgery.
My back is feeling solidly okay these days, and I want to discuss another type of pain: the psychological pain of racism. This is also something that I’ve experienced.
And, let’s face it…on the most basic, colloquial level we can say that racism is stupid. Hating somebody based upon their skin color is just…stupid.
Evolution of skin color
So, from a long-term historical perspective, skin color is related to natural selection. That means that different skin colors have different advantages in varying climates. And, the primary advantage—from an evolutionary perspective—is reproductive success. This gets a little complicated to explain, so let’s just leave it at that for a moment and return in a bit.
What creates different skin colors?
So, the quickest explanation would be to provide this formula for skin tone:
TYR gene–>tyrosinase enzyme–>tyrosine amino acid—>dopaquinone—>melanocytes cells—>melanin pigment.
That seems like a weird formula to explain how we’ve come to perceive people as Black, white, Hispanic, et. al.
But, that’s how it works on a biological level. We’ve constructed race to mean all sorts of things. It exists in the imagination to be bundled with all types of qualities and value judgments. But, what we think of as “race” results from this sequence on a biological level.
Here’s the longer explanation from Medline Plus:
The TYR gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called tyrosinase. This enzyme is located in melanocytes, which are specialized cells that produce a pigment called melanin. Melanin is the substance that gives skin, hair, and eyes their color. Melanin is also found in the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (the retina), where it plays a role in normal vision.
Tyrosinase is responsible for the first step in melanin production. It converts a protein building block (amino acid) called tyrosine to another compound called dopaquinone. A series of additional chemical reactions convert dopaquinone to melanin in the skin, hair follicles, the colored part of the eye (the iris), and the retina.
So, I’m not making anything up here. This is how different skin colors exist. It has nothing to do with God creating different types of people or anything of the sort. It has to do with evolutionary natural selection. And, it has everything to do with a gene, enzymes, amino acids, cells and pigments.
That’s the basic biological reality of it. Of course, this is a simplified explanation. There are books written on the topic of enzymes alone. But, if you want a biological summary, that’s it.