Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Acting White: Blacks and Blue Eye Color

In an earlier and surprisingly most popular post (here), I explained why it is very uncommon for people of African ancestry to have blue eyes. What I did not say in that post is how some Blacks today, nevertheless, come by their natural blue eyes. I did not mean to imply that Blacks cannot have natural blue eyes. This topic applies to all light-colored, non-brown eyes, including green and hazel, but remember that there is a hierarchy of gene color dominance.

If a Black person has White ancestry (17% on average) on both sides, the genes that produce blue eyes can lay dormant for many generations, before suddenly appearing, ‘out of nowhere’. No, blue eyes does not prove that mom was stepping out on dad. However, if you look back in the family tree for a few generations you should see other examples of blue eyes popping up.

The other way, albeit more rare, to get blue eyes is by gene mutation of the OAC2. The idea of a recurring mutation runs counter to those researchers who believe that all blue-eyed people are related to one person with the mutation, who lived 6-10,000 years ago. Not sure when the issue will be resolved. I tend to believe the recurring mutation theory.

It seems that away from the equator, however, that colored eyes confers sexual advantage within dark-skin people, similar to that experienced by those with light skin. All people seem to be attracted to colors. I remember, as a kid, how the Black girls cooed over a dark brown-skin neighbor boy, with green eyes. He was the only one in his extended family with such eyes (that I saw). If only Smokey Robinson's eyes could talk (here).

So, are Black people color-struck when it comes to eye-color? If yes, is this a bad thing? Please be thoughtful, as these comments are likely to get a lot of reads.

Update: Check out this post (here) if you are interested in why people find blue eyes attractive. Interesting theory.

James C. Collier


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Daddy Squeeze Me! said...

I believe it is bad when they imply that to be unique or to be thought of as having something special, one must have something other than just BROWN eyes.

I also think that there is nothing wrong with noticing the beauty in things that are different or not as common, but we must be careful not to imply that one must possess something of this nature to be somebody. I too work with Africans or Blacks that have blue and or green eyes and although there may not be anything special about their faces as a whole, they are constantly praised as BEAUTIFUL.

It is as if the eyes that are blue or green or whatever color seem to give off a blinding light that only draws the beholder into the eyes and no where else. LOL

Sidebar.... I have eyes like a KEWPIE doll and my eyes are BROWN...large and brown. I adore them! I am the exception IMO because I am always told I have beautiful eyes.

Anonymous said...

I have a unique (and not always pleasant) situation. My light skinned green eyed West Indian father married my uber-caucasian mother and produced me with recessive genes up the wazoo.
Blue eyes, very fair and a long caucasian nose. I went through some difficult times in my childhood (the whole "devil eyes" response from peers) along with "what are you?" well into my 30s. This was particulary trying during the late 60s but I've long ago accepted that I will never get taller or blacker and I've adapted to the hand I was dealt. I do envy my dark brown wife her gorgeous chocolate complexion but, admittedly, my blue eyes attracted females in my youth so I guess as a trade off it's all good.
Most of my youthful hassles were from my own people, incidentally. Human being is a wonderful concept.
Wonder if we'll ever get there.

Anonymous said...

I might add ITS NOT SEXUAL ADVANTAGE; its like skin color and texture--not sexual advantage,,most people i know who have colored eyes, need to wear sunglasses more..thats it, just like melanin gives more protection, actually more than we think from the sun

James C. Collier said...

Anon 11:26, attributes of positive reproductive standing are anything potential mates see as desirable, for whatever reason, but usually pertaining to the survivability of a particular genome - including standing out in a crowd.

Sophia said...

"The idea of a recurring mutation runs counter to those researchers who believe that all blue-eyed people are related to one person with the mutation, who lived 6-10,000 years ago. Not sure when the issue will be resolved. I tend to believe the recurring mutation theory."

My understanding is that when you have a mutation which confers some kind of advantage it will become a part of the genome rather quickly. So in the area where blue eyes started (the Black Sea area, I believe) it conferred an advantage. Carriers of this mutation had more children. These carriers bred with other carriers and the rest is, as they say, history.

I don't think it's possible to create millions of people with blue eyes via recurring mutation route.

James C. Collier said...

Sophia, I would agree, but not go so far as to link all blue eyes to a single mutation.

sophia said...

So you think it happened repeatedly? Not sure what you mean.

BTW I do think that blue/light eyes are as widespread as they are partly due to sexual selection. I also think, from what I've read, that it's just a single switch, not a bunch of them, so it's not difficult to bring about.

Getting back to eye color, I have blue-green eyes. Maybe I'm making this up, but I detect in most people a slight startle response when we make eye contact. I believe that brown being the default color, everyone is somewhat startled by non-brown eyes, even if only for a nanosecond. This is buried deep in our ancient cortex. What do you think, James?

James C. Collier said...

Sophia, to clarify, I think the mutation of the OAC2 occurred in more than one person in history. As for eye color responses, I think different hair, eyes, and skin color feed our need for variety. Enjoy your eyes and don't forget the UV sunglasses - Vive la différence!

Sophia said...

I really should get those sunglasses.:)

I would like to ask you an off-topic question about boxing, genes and race. But I won't unless you say it's OK.

James C. Collier said...

Sophia, ask away. Maybe it will be worth a post.

Sophia said...

Thanks. I hate it when people hijack comment lines with things that are completely irrelevant so I had to ask.

I am interested in boxing history and how boxing relates to society. I'm actually a little squeamish about watching bouts...but I am quite fascinated by the history.

One cannot help but notice rather uncomfortably that whenever black men were allowed to compete equally with whites they rose to the top of the game and seemed to exhibit more explosive punching, better reflexes, footwork, balance, etc., than white boxers. This actually goes back to 18th century English, when an AFrican-American named Tom Molyneux traveled to England and beat 'em all.

Do you think blacks have some genetic cards that whites don't which help them to become better boxers?

(In boxing there is a truism that whites cut more easily than blacks. I thought this was complete nonsense until I looked into the matter, and yes, there are some physical differences between black and white skin that make the latter cut more easily.)

Thanks for the opp'ty to discuss this in a rational, non-hateful way. I would enjoy seeing a post on this.

James C. Collier said...

Sophia, not sure where you are getting your data. Indeed, blacks have dominated the heavyweight class, but this is a limited set over the entire boxing weight class strata. Superiority in boxing is a complex set of abilities and training, developed over a long period, unlike sports like long-distance running, dominated by Rift Valley ancestry. As for skin and cut resistance, this seems sketchy, as collagen fibers from keratin protein determine strength and toughness in skin, and not melanin.

Sophia said...


I am busy now and can't give you the numbers, but I think I can prove that blacks have dominated boxing in every weight class in which they were present in any amount of numbers, since the Police Gazette was reporting on bouts. Later.

I probably shouldn't have begun with the admittedly speculative issue of skin texture, but it was something that I'd just read about and it was on my mind.

More important, blacks have longer limbs, less fat on the limbs, a bit of superiority in the fast-twitch muscle fiber area, heavier bones, and a greater muscle-to-fat ratio than other races.

All this (I believe) gives them an advantage in boxing.

It doesn't make them sure-fire winners. Boxing is, as you say, much more complicated than that.

I also believe that boxing skills have eroded tremendously and that this gives the "natural" athlete a greater advantage than he would have had back in the '40s, when thousands of skilled boxers fought one another in only 8 weight classes. Nowadays you have mostly tomato cans fighting tomato cans in 17 different weight classes, so the black guy with fast reflexes wins. (Until he comes up against
a skilled white boxer, which is what happened with Danny Jacobs recently. Did you see that fight? He didn't take the Russian seriously & got knocked out in the 5th round by a right that he never saw coming.)

Regarding skin:

"Briefly, the stratum corneum, or the outer most layer of the skin of blacks has been shown to be made up of more layers when compared with that of whites. The overall thickness of this layer in white and black skin is generally similar, however in black skin it seems to be more compact, accounting for the greater number of layers."

non-scientific site, but includes cites:

More layers = more strength? Food for thought.

Regarding collagen, fibroblasts are the cells which produce collagen:

"A recent study has shown that the fibroblast (cells that produce collagen) in blacks are larger, more numerous and often more mononucleated"

This is not from a scientific site and I wish that she had cited the study, however. I'll look into it further as time permits.

So that's my take: blacks do have a slight genetic advantage, which in the absence of technique and competition gives them a greater advantage than they otherwise would have.

But....when you marry technique, brains and physical ability (think Jack Johnson)....whoa, Nelly.

I absolutely agree with you that boxing skills is a complicated set of abilities, and furthermore one boxers style and skillset can nullify another's.

concerned said...

what an interesting conversation!

i know that yes, it does go much deeper but really.... i like blue eyes because they're pretty!!!

but i love playing up mine which are deep brown and very mysterious.

also, to me, blue eyes are exotic. i'm sure i'd be into brown ones if mine were blue.

but anyways.

this is a great blog, definite follow. check me out if you want!


Anonymous said...

What is interesting is to see the "one drop" rule so alive and well within the black community. I find it both disheartening and alarming that after so many generations that we as a people continue to believe and pass on beliefs that were instilled during slavery. To consistently ignore and deliberately fail to acknowledge people of mixed race by clumping them into the convenience of "being black" is no better than what was done to our ancestors not long ago. There has been a mixing of race since the begining of time. However for blacks in today's world to continue to apply the 1 drop rule in a sweeping manner toward peoples of mix race is as racist and irresponsible as the very people who first planted the seed into our collective psyche.

Anonymous said...

Well after reading this blog i must agree, black people with different coloured eyes are often praised (even if they do not have amazing good looks), this could be a bad thing because black people seem to find anything that is non black so fascinating and attractive - so what does this say? that black people as a whole do not want to associate with anything that reflects black?

I will say i think it is very unique and exotic looking when a black/mixed person have non brown coloured eyes but i wouldn't put them above the black person with brown eyes, beauty comes in many forms & i refuse to only see one thing as beautiful, the most attractive black people ive seen have brown eyes so that in it self says alot i think.

FYI: im from england wich is why i spelt colour with a 'u'

Daddy Squeeze Me! said...


Philip S. said...

Both my parents are black, however, I was born with blue eyes. They seem to get more attention from the white community. "Where did you get those eyes?" I am 46 years old and still don't have a good answer other than I was born with them.

Sunshine said...

you have to realize that in the black community, it's rare to see anyone with any other color eyes other than brown. rarely, do we see greens, greys, blues, and hazels. where as in other races it may not be a big deal because eye colors are so random, that's not the case with blacks, and that's why we are in awe when one of our on has a different eye color. . .

Anonymous said...

I never liked blue eyes. Scary looking and generally come on serial killers and people capable of killing. Not attractive at all, at least to me. In fact its a turn off.

James C. Collier said...

Anon 9:59, I held your similar sentiments, only instead of blue eyes it was people with red hair. Thank goodness I was only five years old at the time. Rest assured that things will look different when you grow up. BTW, you type well for a child.

Anonymous said...

There is no sexual preference for eye color in humans, nor any genetic advantage or disadvantage, eye color is simply due to an absence of pigmentation and any person black or white can produce children with any eye color. Simply put it's rarer in people with "recent african ancestory" (all humans have "african ancestory migrating in 2 waves, 50-60,000 and 35,000 ears ago, out of africa) because in general someone of recent African ancestry (specifically western and parts of sub-saharan) will have higher levels of pigmentation compared to individuals with recent North/Central European and Asiatic ancestry. The mutation you talk about is also the same one that causes Albinism as long as you don't get the mutation on both your XX or XY you will likely have a lighter eye color otherwise you will have no pigmentation any where else eyes included.

Note as stated the eyes are not protected by the pigmentation in them from sun light. There is absolutely no function for pigmentation in the eyes other than we carry pigment in our skin therefore we carry pigment in our eyes. Also, most individuals in the world black or white, or whatever nonsensical categorization race, have some variation of brown eyes.

Hikkilove said...

I have light eyes that can be seen as light green/blue/grey depending on what light I'm in. While it has resulted in compliments on how pretty my eyes are my whole life, sometimes I wish my eyes were brown. I like my eyes personally but I'm really bad with all the attention. Also I don't like that it makes my sisters feel about their own still light, but brown eyes. My great grandfather had blue eyes and my niece has green so it runs on both sides of my family, but I don't think it's anything to feel superior about. I did not make these eyes myself so I don't feel as if I did anything special. Also I have seen some absolutely lovely brown eyes. I saw a girl with the biggest darkest eyes I've ever seen and I always envied her for the way they seemed to sparkle.

Anonymous said...

Coloured eyes are beautiful, I'm not saying that you must have coloured eyes to be beautiful. It just happened to e that a lot of people have a preference for coloured eyes, and especially on dark skin tones may I add. I've been on quite a couple of sites talking about coloured eyed men and light skinned men. Everything is beautiful, people just happen to prefer one over the other.

Anonymous said...

It has been discovered that there a few tribes in africa that have blue and green eyes. Scientist didnt think that the coloured eyes were as a result of any sort of mixes but rather a mutation.

Green Eyed Gal said...

He's attractive, and so are the Hodge Twins (though they come across as very dumb). However I've always preferred brown eyes, not just on brown folk, but on everyone. I love dark hair and dark eyes.

Anonymous said...

I think coloured eyes are seen as attractive in the black community because they denote non-black ancestry. There's a lot of self hate going on and I think this is a part of that self hate. To have non-black ancestry or links is seen as to be better than just being regular old black.

Anonymous said...

Turns out blue, green, hazel, or whatever light colored eyes are not really all that special because everyone, yes, EVERYONE, has blue eyes once the thin layer of pigmentation is removed. You could take the darkest brotha' out of Africa and give him blue eyes with a surgical procedure.

Unknown said...

I just find that light eyes dark to very dark skin and wavy hair is very alluring to just about every one. It's just something about that look that just makes people stare and wonder. It raises my emotions and attractions. People that are born with those looks get judged for how they were born just as everyone else. People who achieve the look artificially, get judged harshest.

Anonymous said...

I have dark blue eyes, my parents have dark blue eyes. My older sister has green eyes. My younger sister has dark blue eyes. My grandparents have blue or grey eyes.

Dark blue eyes don't stand out. I can make people notice them if I wear bright blue but most of the time, my eyes don't make anymore impact than brown eyes. They're just as dark as most brown eyes anyway.