Posted by: Steve Coplan | July 25, 2006

One of these things is not like the other

This month’s Harper’s Index (which hasn’t yet been posted online) notes that since 1960 55 films have featured evil albinos. This press release from the The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation points out, however, that the last film that featured an evil albino before the Silas character in the Da Vinci Code was made two decades ago. (Yet another reason to avoid it, I’d argue).

For reasons that haven’t yet been identified, black South Africans have an unusually high incidence of albinism. Not only is the South African climate inhospitable to people with little or no melanin, and their appearance an immediate and stark contrast, for many the psychic and largely unconscious perception of them as racially white adds to the stigma. For a society that for so many years coded social status and economic opportunity with race, seeing an albino among a group of black South Africans and assuming for an instant that the person was white was a subtle reminder of how deeply embedded perceptions become despite a concerted effort to fight them.

Pieter Hugo (of the ‘Hyena People’) has an excellent series on albinism (including the image below), as well as this commentary.

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