Beauty, Race & Genetics: Can Blacks & Africans Be Born With Natural Blue Or Green-Coloured Eyes? How Does It Happen?
AROUND THE WORLD there are numerous examples of black men, women and children with natural blue or green eyes. According to science there are two ways this can happen. By Ben Arogundade. Sept. 20, 2019.
CAN BLACK PEOPLE HAVE natural blue or green eyes? Many think that black people with blue or green eyes are wearing coloured contact lenses. In fact, people of African ancestry, such as these African children, or celebrities such as Rihanna and Tyra Banks can have naturally blue, green or hazel eyes, due to a gene mutation or via parents with European ancestry on both sides who carry the gene for the particular colour.
FOR MANY YEARS, the reasons why blue eyes exist in humans has eluded geneticists. But in 2008 a report by a team of researchers from Copenhagen University traced all blue-eyed people back to one ancestor who lived approximately 8,000 years ago near the northwest coastal regions of the Black Sea. “It could be the northern part of Afghanistan,” said Professor Hans Eiberg, who led the team. Their report, published in the journal, ‘Human Genetics’, identified a single mutation in a gene called OCA2, which arose by chance. The gene does not create a blue iris, but rather, it turns off the mechanism that produces brown melanin pigment. “Originally, we all had brown eyes,” says Eiberg.
CAN BLACK & AFRICAN PEOPLE HAVE BLUE OR GREEN EYES?
Many believe that the blue-eyed gene, or indeed those for green or hazel eyes, only occurs naturally in Europeans, and that people of African heritage with these eye colours are wearing coloured contact lenses. Indeed, according to Google’s global search statistics, 2,000 people type the question, “Can black people have blue eyes?” into their browsers each month, in search of clarification. Another 3,500 Google the term, “Black girls and women with green or blue eyes”, while 2,500 ask about a “black baby with blue eyes”. Notably, Google records more monthly queries about black people with natural blue eyes than it does about blacks with green eyes.
BLACK PEOPLE BLUE EYES FAKE?
When the photograph featured above (centre), called “The Boy with the Sapphire Eyes”, was first posted online, there were many comments claiming that the child's blue eyes had been photoshopped, or were altered using colour contact lenses, and that the image — taken by Vanessa Bristow — was a fake. Bristow eventually had to make a statement refuting these claims about the child's eye colour, and maintaining that the image depicts the boy's natural eye colour.
BLUE OR GREEN EYES IN BLACK: HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?
Contrary to what many believe, blue and green eye colours do occur naturally in people of both black African and Asian ancestry. As mentioned, gene mutation is one cause; the other occurs when a person of African heritage possesses Caucasian relatives on both sides of their family who are carriers of the gene for that particular eye colour. For example, a black couple with brown eyes could conceive a child with naturally blue or green coloured eyes, so long as the gene for this eye colour exists somewhere within the ancestral line of both parents.
BLUE AND GREEN IN BLACK
Well-known stars of stage and screen such as Vanessa Williams, Rihanna, Tyra Banksand Terrence Howard, as well as Indian Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai, are well-known examples of celebrities of colour who do not have stereotypically brown eyes. Williams’s are blue, while the others are green. But many confused people around the world, unaware of the genetic facts, still presume that they are wearing coloured contact lenses to hide their natural eye colour.
AFRICA GREEN, AFRICA BLUE: Non-white celebrities with natural blue and green-coloured eyes include singer Rihanna, TV personality Tyra Banks, actress Vanessa Williams and Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai. Many do not believe these stars have naturally green or blue eyes, and instead think they are wearing colour contact lenses.
*BLACK PEOPLE WITH NATURAL BLUE AND GREEN EYES, ACCORDING TO GOOGLE SEARCH
The number of people worldwide who Google the term, “Africans with blue eyes” each month.
The number of people worldwide who Google the term, “Black baby with blue eyes” each month.
The number of people worldwide who Google the term, “Black girls and women with green or blue eyes” each month.
*All figures for “Black People With Natural Blue And Green Eyes, According to Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.
VIDEO OF BLACK GIRLS & BOYS WITH NATURAL BLUE EYES
WE HAVE BEEN SHOCKED and appalled by the murder of George Floyd in the US, and heartened by the resistance of the Black Lives Matter movement. In the aftermath, what matters most is not this painful past, but what we are going to do now. I am determined to transform my feelings of anger, pain and sadness into something positive and inclusive, which gathers and unifies citizens of all ethnicities who believe in fairness, equality and love. Hopefully that is you.
As a writer, to do my bit to assist, I am looking to raise funds to write, produce and publish an illustrated history book that narrates the story of society’s prejudices against BAME people in the 21st century, and the subsequent work of Black Lives Matter. Each person who donates the book price or more (£45.00/$55.00) will receive a copy.
I have written before about the history of the black experience, in a book called Black Beauty published in 2000. It went on to become a bestseller, was honoured by the New York Public Library and become the subject of a three-part BBC documentary. My proposed new book is a “sequel” which continues this literary journey into this new century.
The title will become an important educational and historical document that will both inform the growing audience of people seeking to understand how we got here, and also help ensure that the aims and values of the Black Lives Matter movement continue to resonate.
This is the most important time in the history of the struggle for racial equality since the death of Martin Luther King in 1968. Let us not allow it to pass without doing what we can. Donate now, and let’s go!