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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

An Albino Race--or not.

96885 My posts on albinism fast turned out to be the most popular destinations on this website, outpacing reads about Arthur Blessitt's divorce ten to one this week. I've continued to keep my eyes out for more information on the subject, which has resulted in a couple of discoveries: One, that some of my own cousins probably carry the albinism gene; the other being possible evidence for an actual race of albinos along the southernmost Caribbean coast:

 "The Kuna have a very high incidence rate of albinism. In Kuna mythology, albinos (or sipus) were given a special place. Albinos in Kuna culture are considered a special race of people, and have the specific duty of defending the Moon against a dragon which tries to eat it during an eclipse. Only they are allowed outside on the night of an eclipse and used specially made bows and arrows to shoot down the dragon."

Well, these claims don't bear up so well under scrutiny--especially the 'special race' part. Since carriers of the albinism gene are indistinguishable in the general population, it has never been possible to isolate the albino population into a separate race. If albinos are encouraged only to marry other albinos, an albino population will immediately emerge, but this still will not serve to keep albinism out of the general population; only a controlled breeding program empowered by the modern science of genetics could succeed in that. And no one has tried it, nor is ever likely to, as albinism is a very debilitating condition. I have now received some reports of two successive generations of albinos, but not yet of three [UPDATE: there is now at least one current case of a third-generation albino, referenced in another post on this topic].

But back to the Kuna/Cunas of Panama. Despite their accepted social status, the physical limitations of their defect keeps Kuna albinos from fully engaging in Kuna society (albino men are limited occupationally to traditionally feminine or adolescent roles). Yet albinism persists, due mainly to the small tribal gene pool (compounded, it would appear, by a high rate of incest), misunderstanding of the genetic cause ('moon children' have traditionally been thought to form due to Lamarckian influence at some point in the development of the foetus), and lack of meaningful artificial selection against it (the herbal remedies against fetal albinism being totally useless, racial infanticide being traditionally frowned upon, and the miscegenation prohibition unenforceable in the face of rampant fornication).

The Kunas, despite their unusually high percentage of albinos and social acceptance thereof, generally do not allow them to marry, and take active steps (however futile) against passing on the gene through non-albino carriers. So much for a 'special race,' if such a term actually means anything.

A few cogent observations could be made on what we have learned so far:

- Environment has not appeared to be a factor in the development of a high percentage of albinos in a population. In fact, the populations with the most albinos are very close to the equator, where climactic conditions make albinism the least survivable.

- Albinos are anywhere from two to two hundred times more likely to be found in dark races than in light ones, despite the much more obvious stigma that they would carry among people who look so much different then themselves. Three concentrations of albinism have been identified so far: The Hopi/Zuni of Arizona, the Kuna of Darien, and a so-far unspecified population of Tanzania [UPDATE: The highest concentration of albinos turns out to be due to artificial selection. See articles on Ukerewe Island].

- The main common factor behind the various ethnogeographical concentrations of albinism seems to be animism, functioning in three ways: one, sexual promiscuity resulting in uncontrolled inbreeding; two, a strong resistance to a scientific approach for preventing the passing on of the trait; and three, a typical association of whiteness with heightened spiritual power or influence. This last factor could be a result of the fallacious cause-and-effect reasoning of animists: an albino shaman did something that was perceived to be a demonstration of great spiritual power, and the source of that power was then attributed to his or her whiteness.

- Animism, especially in Africa, puts a premium on body parts from albinos, which results in pressure on albinism in the general population, but also in an artificial concentration of albinos in safe havens, where they are more likely to pass on their albino genes.

There is much we are still learning about the cultural factors behind the preponderance of albinism, but one thing seems sure: No albino race has apparently ever existed, nor is one ever likely to.


  1. Leave Arthur Blessitt alone.

  2. Anonymous,
    I am not leaving Arthur Blessitt alone. I have nothing to say to him other than what John the Baptist kept saying to Herod: "It is not lawful for you to have her."

    Well, that and "Put away all lying." At the very least he has to stop perpetrating the impression on his website that Denise is his one and only wife, the mother of all his children. It just simply isn't true, and he knows it.

  3. You just replaced one myth and stereotype with another.; Namely, so called "Animism," being associated with sexual promiscuity. There is absolutely no evidence to support your claims. 'Animism" is a western created racist designation for indigenous people's who practice ancestral spirituality. In fact, the opposite of your claims are true. Namely because "animism" venerates the Ancestors' who tend to be very strict about moral laws.

  4. Seeking, the prevalence of albinism in animist societies is itself evidence for the claim that animism is associated with promiscuity.


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