As describe in my previous blog post, Albinism 101, Albinism is considered a genetic condition that causes the skin, hair, or eyes to have little to no pigment or colour. It is actually one of the least understood genetic conditions around the world. Due to this incomprehension in Albinism, a number of myths, folklores and superstitions has arisen throughout history.
In most cases, these myths are endangering the lives of individuals with Albinism (IWA), mainly in Africa, where violent rituals are done on IWA.
Here are my top 6 myths about Albinism that I find absurd.
1. Albinism can cure HIV
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body’s natural defence system. According to Avert, there is no cure for HIV. Hmm… or so they say? Nevertheless, drinking the blood of IWA individuals with Albinism will not cure HIV. Sadly, this myth has led to a number of violent actions, include rape against individuals with Albinism reported Fredrick Ngugi. The things we do as human beings never ceases to amaze me.
2. Albinism is contagious
As mentioned in my previous blog post, Albinism 101, Albinism is hereditary, it is passed down by both parents. Both parents must be a carrier, and both must pass on an Albinism gene for someone to be born with the condition. It is not contagious.
3. Albinism is a curse or a punishment
Is Sickle Cell disease a punishment? Is Cystic Fibrosis a curse? Albinism is not a curse nor is it a punishment. Is is a genetic condition, which could have happened to anyone who has both parents as carriers of the Albinism, even you could be a carrier without knowing. It is said that 1 in 17,000 individuals world while has a form of Albinism.
4. Individuals with Albinism are less intelligent
Firstly, I am an individual who is living with Albinism. Do I consider myself smart? Sure, I’m doing Computer Science as my first degree while working in that field at the same time. Do you consider me smart? Well, that’s up to you. Once again, Albinism only affects the production of melanin in the eyes, skin and hair. It does not affect one’s intellect. However, Individuals with Albinism do suffer from vision impairment, which can affect learning and education outcomes. I too suffer from poor vision and find it difficult to keep up in class activities, especially when chalkboard is being used.
5. Individuals with Albinism have red eyes
No, this is not true. IWA mostly have blue, green or hazel eyes. However, due to the lack of pigment in the eyes, light is not absorbed by the eyes. As a result, the light is reflected, which sometimes cause a reddish glow in certain lighting conditions. For instance, think of your eyes. Have you ever wonder why your eyes appear red when the camera’s flash is used in certain lighting conditions? Well, that’s due to the intensity of the light from your camera, which cannot be absorbed by your eyes. The light that wasn’t absorbed will reflect. Reflected light will show glow on the surface of your retina. Light color retinas cause reflections far more than dark colored retinas.
6. Individuals with Albinism are evil
Have you ever wonder why albinos always play the bad guy in the movies? Well, I have. Individuals with Albinism are inherently different. This difference is invariably met with distrust and mystery. Once there’s difference, distrust, and mystery, an adversary label is then planted on that difference. Hollywood, for instance, planted the idea of albinos being the bad guys in the movies. Between 1960 and 2006 there were 68 movies released featuring an evil albino, with 24 of these appearing between 2000 and 2003. In comparison, there were a handful of movies, which an individual with Albinism placed a good guy.
Even with an individual with Albinism is playing the good guy, he is still portrayed as the bad guy, for instance, Jeremy Reed in Powder.
It is sad that it’s 2017 and we are still living with such myths and superstitions. The life of one who looks different, act different and is different will always be treated differently. The history of albinism and of IWA, even now, confirms this. Hopefully, for the sake of my life, my offsprings and many others who are living with Albinism, this article like many others will help forge a new path as we learn a little more about this condition, in order for it to lead to greater acceptance by society.