Friday, June 14, 2013

White Witch or Zombies?

Albinos are probably the most misunderstood, most maligned, and in some parts of Africa, the most hunted people in the world. They have always been discriminated against for their appearance.  In Biblical times they were forced to live with lepers in colonies because it was believed that both disorders were a curse or a judgment from God for sin.
In Tanzania, 62 murders of Albinos have been documented since 2008; 12 others have been exhumed from their graves. Most of the victims are children. Why? Because of superstition, ignorance and witchcraft, Albinos are believed to possess supernatural powers, that Albinos never die, that they become ghosts or zombies. 

Children are increasingly subject to murder or mutilation, even sold by their parents, because of the myth that the harvesting of Albino limbs, organs and blood for lucky charms will bring good fortune to such businesses as mining and fishing.
In Zimbabwe having sex with a woman having albinism is believed to cure an HIV infected man. As a result, a large number of Albino women are being raped and thus, being infected by the HIV virus, in the name of a cure.
Albinos occur in all races, and in all animal groups.  It is genetically inherited. Albinism occurs as a defect in one of several genes  that block the production of melanin, a natural substance that gives color to the hair, skin and iris of the eyes. Albinos are often depicted as blind-- another untruth.  Hair and skin are usually very white; eyes from pale blue to gray. In severe cases they may be pink or reddish.

Low vision causes vulnerability to sun exposure and bright light. As a consequence Albinos can be vulnerable to skin cancers if unprotected from the sun.  Albinism has no effect on mental development and does not cause criminal tendencies. 
Accurate information on the number of Albinos that exist is hard to come by; it is estimated that one out of every 17,000 people have some form of albinism.

Hollywood bigots have capitalized on the spurious myths by producing, to date, 68 movies stereotyping Albinos as evil and villainous characters-- anti-heroes.  In the movie, The Da Vinci Code, Silas, a religious fanatic and murderous assassin, is portrayed as an Albino.  This Monster Mania  is appearing in modern music as well.

Albinos animals and plants are considered valuable assets; even in the wild these creatures will receive positive attention from their own. Not so with the human race. Where is the compassion and outrage over this overlooked minority? 

The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) has spoken out against Albino bias in the United States. But ignorance and misconceptions refuse to go away as long as people with albinism  are treated as a valuable commodity..

NOTE:  My novel Angel of Tears deals with several forms of prejudice – albinism is one of them.  I expose my readers to the wonderful traits of Alva Watson, an albino.

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