A group of University of Pennsylvania researchers have uncovered the origins of skin color variations of Ethiopians, Tanzanians, and Botswanans in an eye-opening study that determines race is simply a socially constructed theory. The researchers identified six key variants: SLC24A5, MFSD12, DDB1, TMEM138, OCA2, and HERC2 that make up 29 percent of skin color pigments within these vast populations.
“When people think of skin color in Africa most would think of darker skin, but we show that within Africa there is a huge amount of variation, ranging from skin as light as some Asians to the darkest skin on a global level and everything in between, said Sarah Tishkoff, one of the study’s authors and professor of genetics and biology at Penn in a press release. “We identify genetic variants affecting these traits and show that mutations influencing light and dark skin have been around for a long time, since before the origin of modern humans.”
Through evaluating the DNA of some 1,570 volunteers from the three countries, the researchers found that darkest skin color is present in Nilo-Saharan pastoralist populations in eastern Africa, and people with the lightest tones are San hunter-gatherers from southern Africa.
These six variants have been around for some 300,000 years, and influenced pigmentation in our primitive ancestors. Other studies have found the light skin allele SLC24A5 present in South Asians and Europeans. These discoveries might indicate that our ancestors originally had lighter skin before migrating to the Savannah where darker skin evolved.
Although this is an unprecedented study on the origins of skin pigmentation, around 70 percent of biological markers associated with African skin color have yet to be identified. However, these findings prove that skin color is an unfounded biological marker, and using it to categorize people only fuels racism.