Racial violence is rearing its head with increasing frequency once again and there are daily reports of someone or the other being attacked for being of a different colour, a different caste, or for being a meat-eater suspected of camouflaging beef as mutton. But, most of all, what we continue to obsess about and discriminate against is colour: the fact is ‘fair’ gets an unfair advantage among people all over the world.
Sometimes it takes bizarre forms. Let me recall two landmark events nearly six decades apart.
A blonde child was born on a July day in 2010 to an all-black Nigerian couple in a London hospital and it immediately had everyone in a tizzy. One can visualise the petrified medical team, when the blonde head slowly appeared like a rising full moon followed by the rest of the body, all fair and glowing, with no hint of anything black anywhere. The first reaction of most people was to cynically doubt the fidelity of the lady. Sniggers greeted the new arrival, eyebrows kept arching upwards and lips curled into an all-knowing sneer. There was widespread suspicion that the Nigerian lady “knew” (in biblical terms) a white Caucasian male and this blonde child was the result. If the doctors were startled, imagine the reactions of the wife and husband when the nurse brought the little bundle to them. Their first response was to recoil and ask the nurse to take it back, protesting it wasn’t theirs and there must be some mistake. The Nigerian husband must have interrogated his wife when the little blonde bombshell emerged; the first thing he asked in fact was “Is she mine?” Outrage then gave way to amazement. Calling the baby Nmachi was an acknowledgement of a divine intervention; Nmachi translates to “Beauty of God” in the Nigerian tongue.
There was no white ancestry in either the wife’s or the husband’s family. So how a black couple had a blonde baby posed a medical conundrum. Mutation was one possible explanation. Another was that fragments of genetic material obtained during some unknown mixing many generations ago could have skipped generations and found expression with Nmachi. And, no, the baby was not an albino. One clue, if clue it was, was that the blonde hair was crinkly.
Ben the husband quickly became reconciled to his situation. “She’s a miracle baby and we love her,” he said. “She could be green and yellow – we would love her all the same.” Mercifully, this was not put to the test: imagine a green baby, like an unripe mango with eyes, nose and mouth.