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June 8, 2008 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Often referred to as “sope”, meaning something magical inhabited by powerful evil spirits, albinos have long been the victims of discrimination in Africa (scroll up). Although Tanzania recently nominated an albino MP, they are being killed and mutilated to support a growing trade.
posted by gman (66 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Africa, you guys, am I right? It seems like every month news of some previously unheard-of horrific practice reaches the outside world.
posted by Electrius at 11:36 AM on June 8, 2008


While listening to a radio interview with a former SDS member, today, they were discussing rationality. And the phrase that came to my head: Never underestimate the power of the irrational.
posted by symbioid at 11:44 AM on June 8, 2008


Tanzanian officials say witch doctors are now marketing albino skin, bones and hair as ingredients in potions that are promised to make people rich.

What the fuck? What year is this? These are people who live in cities and have cars, right? But they have witch doctors? And people's body parts have magical properties? They have potions?
And just to the north of Tanzania, in Kenya, they're burning people who they think are witches and wizards.

What the hell man. A bunch of depraved people who wish they went to Hogwarts.

Mind you, I'm just as incredulous at all the animals who are killed and have their parts ground up for use in other places. When one culture will siphon the bile out of a living moon bear for use as an aphrodisiac, and another will make a potion out of the anal scent glands of a civet cat to induce abortions, it really isn't that much of a stretch for another culture to use body parts from an Albino to create a "get rich" potion.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:44 AM on June 8, 2008


Africa, you guys, am I right? It seems like every month news of some previously unheard-of horrific practice reaches the outside world.


Um, I would assume that you are making that comment as an American. Let's see what I can dig up about horrific American practices:

Anal bleaching (very NSFW)
Southern Poverty Center Hate Groups Map
111 nations, but not US, adopt cluster bomb treaty

Or whatever...

There's a lot of weirdness and bad shit out there in the world, and it seems ignorant to pick on Africa - an entire continent.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:52 AM on June 8, 2008


Um, I would assume that you are making that comment as an American. Let's see what I can dig up about horrific American practices:

I was more commenting on media practices than anything else.
posted by Electrius at 11:53 AM on June 8, 2008


I saw Albino's a few times when I was working in Nigeria. I've been all over Africa, but mostly in the Sub Sahara region, but I've also spent a couple of months working in Cairo.

Never saw Albinos in other countries, I wonder if they are more accepted in Nigeria than other nations? To be honest, I had no idea they were discriminated against, that was never covered in my immersion training - thanks for a very interesting post.

The first time I saw an Albino was outside of Lagos (some crappy little town, just a dirt road for main street, deep in the middle of nowhere maybe one hour north of Abuja by hummer). I was working alone on that trip and hadn't seen another white person for almost a month. At that point I was used to not seeing any white people. I remember looking at this crowd at a bus stop outside a market and something that didn't seem right. So I kept looking. And then it hit me - A WHITE GUY! HERE?

We made eye contact and I could see he felt the same way. A shocked, surprised look on his face. I wanted to head over and chat with the guy, but I always traveled with security people in Nigeria (unlike other African nations), and we always had to avoid large crowds.

Such a strange experience though. I still remember that guys face, and often wonder what his life was like. How its going for him now.

CitrusFreak12 - Time to time we'd read in the Nigerian papers of human sacrifices, almost always out in the remote regions. Someone would disappear and later it was found out they'd been sent off to appease some God. So the folks that live in the cities, that are educated, many at Western institutions, don't really approve or condone the practice, its just something that happens amoung the ignorant. Like happens in any country.

This practice isn't solely restricted to Nigeria, but I spent almost zero time in the cities of the other countries I worked in. So I never read about it in a newspaper.

Yeh, Africa is an amazing place. I just managed to convince Mrs Mutant to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with me, so I'm really hoping that she doesn't see this (rather excellent) FPP.

But Africa? Hell yeah, I love the place. And miss it.
posted by Mutant at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Um, I would assume that you are making that comment as an American. Let's see what I can dig up about horrific American practices

Jesus fucking Christ. This post is not about the US. Not everything has to be about the fucking US.

Mutant, that sounds... interesting. I can't imagine that happening here.
"Hey y'know Pete? Used to sit at the front in our math class our senior year?"
"Yeah?"
"His brother disappeared like a week ago. Word is now that he was used as a sacrifice or something."
"Shit, that happened to my aunt like two years ago. That sucks."

And woah, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro for the big five-oh! All my dad did was shave off his moustache.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:16 PM on June 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I would assume that you are making that comment as an American. Let's see what I can dig up about horrific American practices

This thread isn't about the U.S.
posted by Cyrano at 12:19 PM on June 8, 2008


I've seen tonnes of albinos all over India, China, Eastern Africa, etc. Far more than I see here in Toronto. And damn, they stick out! For the most part, the locals treat them like freaks.
posted by gman at 12:23 PM on June 8, 2008


Africa, you guys, am I right? It seems like every month news of some previously unheard-of horrific practice reaches the outside world.

All right, I'll make my point in a more direct way: the above comment is ignorant and racist.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:23 PM on June 8, 2008


Racist call out in 12 comments. Is that a new record?
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:35 PM on June 8, 2008


You know darn well that this has fuck-all to do with race and everything to do with culture. If you can't get past some artificial equivalence of race and culture, KokuRyu, I don't know what else to say to you.

I will not apologize for being appalled by the fact that albinos in Sub-Saharan Africa have to keep an eye out for witch doctors who would sell their parts as get rich charms, and will not hide my disgust for a cultural mindset where practices like this seem to be, even tacitly, permitted.

How you can draw a moral equivalence between anal bleaching and the murder of innocent albinos is shocking.
posted by chimaera at 12:45 PM on June 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


And then there's Salif Keita (from Mali).

Great music, big heart, and (bless him) the insider's approach to albinism in African countries, and around the world.
posted by datawrangler at 12:49 PM on June 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


I agree that anal bleaching (a safe, elective cosmetic procedure) and slaughtering people (to use their body parts in magic potions) are basically equivalent.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:49 PM on June 8, 2008 [10 favorites]


You know darn well that this has fuck-all to do with race and everything to do with culture.

Okay, cross out racist and just call the comment ignorant.

Africa, you guys, am I right? It seems like every month news of some previously unheard-of horrific practice reaches the outside world.

It's unfair to cherry-pick isolated cultural practices like the ones linked to in OP and portray them as yet another example of Africa's cultural degeneracy. Sure, the continent has seen more than its fair share of mayhem, chaos (and genocide) over the past fifteen years or so, but much of this has been the result of warfare, and unstable and murderous proxy regimes propped up by Western governments.

The belief in witchcraft and the power of the fetish is just an extreme example of magical thinking, a kind of thinking which is no less valid than Western rational thought.

Sure, rational thought has allowed us more control of the physical world (we've gone to the fucking moon), but magical thinking provides more insight and connection to the metaphysical world. Sorcery is something that must be eradicated, but, then again, look at the tremendous damage Enlightenment thinking has done to the natural world. It has destroyed the planet, and very soon rational thinking will destroy the human species.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:01 PM on June 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


Ah, but harvesting the anuses of albinos... that's where the real money is.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:06 PM on June 8, 2008


"Racist" is a pretty inflammatory word, but "ignorant" certainly applies. "Ooh, dark continent of Africa! Weird shit happens there, amirite?" Weird shit happens everywhere. The "killed and mutilated" stuff is appalling, but we're talking about nineteen victims in two countries, not some massive continentwide plague. And it's as silly to talk about Africa as if it were a single culture as it would be to talk about Asia that way; see Biological Perspectives on Human Pigmentation by Ashley H. Robins:
The attitudes of African Negroids to albinos have differed from country to country (Kromberg, 1985). Among the Fula people of the Sudan albinos lived on the charity of others, who gave generously to them to win favour from heaven. In Ghana and Dahomey albinos were believed to be under divine protection; in the Congo and Angola they were revered; in Kenya and Uganda they were perceived as curiosities and kept in the households of kings and great chiefs; and in Gabon they were deemed to be unlucky and were frequently killed.
That said, this is obviously interesting stuff; for another scholarly take on it, see Leppard's Atlas of African Dermatology.

And it's not as if Americans don't have a fraught relationship with African-American albinos; check out The White African American Body: A Cultural and Literary Exploration by Charles D. Martin.
posted by languagehat at 1:08 PM on June 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


Okay, cross out racist and just call the comment ignorant.

You're back-pedaling, but we can let that slide.

It's unfair to cherry-pick isolated cultural practices like the ones linked to in OP and portray them as yet another example of Africa's cultural degeneracy. Sure, the continent has seen more than its fair share of mayhem, chaos (and genocide) over the past fifteen years or so, but much of this has been the result of warfare, and unstable and murderous proxy regimes propped up by Western governments.

That's a fair and justifiable argument.

The belief in witchcraft and the power of the fetish is just an extreme example of magical thinking, a kind of thinking which is no less valid than Western rational thought.

Sure, rational thought has allowed us more control of the physical world (we've gone to the fucking moon), but magical thinking provides more insight and connection to the metaphysical world. Sorcery is something that must be eradicated, but, then again, look at the tremendous damage Enlightenment thinking has done to the natural world. It has destroyed the planet, and very soon rational thinking will destroy the human species.


WTF?!
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:09 PM on June 8, 2008 [9 favorites]


Also, this: "Africa, you guys, am I right?" is an order of magnitude more stupid considering the post contained the word Africa in the first sentence. You might as well have said, "Evil spirits, you guys, am I right?"
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:11 PM on June 8, 2008


Oh, one other thing:

Often referred to as “sope”


Huh? It's often referred to as sope in Shona because that's the Shona word for it. In the English-speaking world, it's often referred to as "albino."
posted by languagehat at 1:12 PM on June 8, 2008


All right, I'll make my point in a more direct way: the above comment is ignorant and racist.

You completely missed the point of the comment. The "am I right" instantly signifies that the comment is sarcastic, and it was obvious to me even before Electrius removed any shadow of an ambiguity that the comment was ridiculing The Media for being all "OMG WTF AFRIKA" as of late.

and very soon rational thinking will destroy the human species
....oooooook. Well, rest easy, I doubt you'll have any blood on your hands.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 1:13 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


The belief in witchcraft and the power of the fetish is just an extreme example of magical thinking, a kind of thinking which is no less valid than Western rational thought.

QFU. Or, how is the validity of a way of thinking to be judged? Truth, as much as we may lay claim to the truth? Consistency? Results? Or do you mean no way of thinking may be proclaimed valid or invalid in any sense.

very soon rational thinking will destroy the human species.


That's, uhm, a very strong assertion to make.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:14 PM on June 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, disheartening to see non-Western apparently equated with irrational.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:17 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Huh? It's often referred to as sope in Shona because that's the Shona word for it. In the English-speaking world, it's often referred to as "albino."

My apologies. For Tanzania - Zeru Zeru (ghost).
posted by gman at 1:18 PM on June 8, 2008


That's, uhm, a very strong assertion to make.

Getting a little OT here, but see:

Nuclear war

Global warming
posted by KokuRyu at 1:21 PM on June 8, 2008


ook at the tremendous damage Enlightenment thinking has done to the natural world.

THat's why the majority of New Zealand's animal life was made extinct by pre-Enlightenment polynesian peoples, and conservation efforts didn't start in ernest until an Elightenment society in the 20th century.
posted by rodgerd at 1:24 PM on June 8, 2008


The belief in witchcraft and the power of the fetish is just an extreme example of magical thinking, a kind of thinking which is no less valid than Western rational thought.

Um, yes it is. Much less valid. Especially if you're an albino unfortunate enough to be living in Tanzania right now.

magical thinking provides more insight and connection to the metaphysical world

This metaphysical world you speak of- where is it? What does it do?

look at the tremendous damage Enlightenment thinking has done to the natural world

I guess you missed the part about using the blood and body parts of albinos primarily to improve your efficiency in harvesting natural resources.

I don't think this is a racial issue, these kind of superstitious murderous customs (usually applied in individual cases based on the very human motives of jealousy, greed or power) existed throughout the world until very recently. I, for one, am very happy to live in a culture that does not tolerate (mostly) these kinds of customs. It sounds like the Tanzanian government has made it extremely clear that they feel the same way and I hope that helps save many lives.

Defending murder-for-profit by con men as simply an alternative way of thinking is ridiculous.
posted by fshgrl at 1:29 PM on June 8, 2008 [7 favorites]


Still isn't as fucked up as Florida.
posted by stavrogin at 1:53 PM on June 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


Nuclear war
Global warming


I really think global warming is pretty unlikely to destroy the species. Cause a great deal of grief, yes, but many thousands of years ago people had colonized everything from Alaska to the Equator and survived just fine. That's some pretty harsh global warming if it's going to make the Arctic Circle too hot to be livable.

A full-scale MAD nuclear war is more likely to be able to destroy the species, but if you know when or have proof that that WILL happen please share.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:55 PM on June 8, 2008


Still isn't as fucked up as Florida.

You get twice as high off an albino skull bong.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:56 PM on June 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


LOLOTHERPPL!
posted by WalterMitty at 1:57 PM on June 8, 2008


I don't think this is a racial issue

I agree, but I'd go farther and say that even superstition isn't the real issue here. This reason vs. belief, "civilized" vs. "savage" business is a red herring.

The problem is human cruelty, pure and simple. Anyone, whatever their beliefs and wherever they're from, gets to choose between cruelty and kindness. This is a story about the victims of some people who chose wrong.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:58 PM on June 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


From the NYT article (for what it's worth):

Mr. Rweyemamu said the rash of killings was anathema to what Tanzania had been striving toward; after years of failed socialist economic policies, the country is finally getting development, investment and change. "This is serious because it continues some of the perceptions of Africa we’re trying to run away from," he said.
posted by gimonca at 2:14 PM on June 8, 2008


look at the tremendous damage Enlightenment thinking has done to the natural world.

Yet youre not supporting 6 billion people with it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:17 PM on June 8, 2008


The article isn't about America vs Africa in some weird competition for people to prove which is the more barbaric/odd/ignorant. It's about people persecuting albinos.

And I think that it's also a bit off the mark to start a rational vs 'magical' thinking argument - money quote being:

One traditional healer, a young man in a striped shirt who looked more like a college student than a witch doctor, said: “Yeah, I’ve heard of it. But that’s not real witchcraft. It’s the work of con men.”

So basically we've got a group of people persecuting another group of people because they're different (which may be a simplistic view, but given what the result of the overthinking upthread appears to be, it's a conclusion I'm more than happy to reach).
posted by djgh at 2:20 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


All right, I'll make my point in a more direct way: the above comment is ignorant and racist.

To be fair, it sounds more like you are ignorant . . and alarmist and more than a little reactionary.

Anal bleaching you call up? Really? And Southern Poverty Law Center? Really?
posted by undule at 2:38 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


The essential fact that you've all missed, is that albino anuses come pre-bleached.
posted by mek at 2:40 PM on June 8, 2008 [8 favorites]


I was sick today and I don't feel so good. I posted that in the throes of an optic migraine. I normally know better than to post inflammatory comments on Metafilter— normally. Can we get back to discussing the disgusting persecution of people with a congenital defect?
posted by Electrius at 2:54 PM on June 8, 2008


Man, gman actually posts a good thread and it turns into a damn trainwreck. Guy can't win.
posted by puke & cry at 3:27 PM on June 8, 2008


Well, this thread went well.

bomb the freaks back into the real middle ages, and let em stay there...

Yes, since a hand full of people were killed due to ignorance, the best thing to do is kill thousands and thousands of innocent people. That will teach them a lesson.

I think there is a general media bias in the western press that tends towards writing stories about weird, strange, savage stuff that happens in Africa, rather then writing about the everyday stuff that goes on. 19 murders is not a lot, and people get killed in the U.S. at the same low rate by serial killers and other psycho murderers.
posted by delmoi at 3:31 PM on June 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Human beings everywhere, looking as far as we can look, look pretty much the same... plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. If you can accept that, it’s instructive to look at the worst practices of other cultures, as a clue to how fucked up your own culture would look if you could see it sideways. It’s easier to see the 2x4 stake hammered into your brother’s eye than the one in your eye.

Coming soon to a computer near you:
A Mind Dismembered... In search of the magical penis thieves Harpers June 2008
posted by Huplescat at 3:57 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay guys, moving on:

Anybody have any info on the prevalence of albinism in different ethnic groups? Like gman, I noticed a lot of albinos around India, but I can only think of one I've met in the US (and she was of African descent). I wonder if albinism is just less abruptly noticeable among white people, or if there are significant differences in the rates of albinism around the world? The 1 in 3,000 rate given for Tanzania seems pretty high to me...
posted by bookish at 4:20 PM on June 8, 2008


Man, gman actually posts a good thread and it turns into a damn trainwreck. Guy can't win.

Often referred to as “sope” Zeru Zeru, meaning something magical inhabited by powerful evil spirits ghosts, albinos have long been the victims of discrimination in Africa (scroll up). Although Tanzania recently nominated an albino MP, they are being killed and mutilated to support a growing trade.

ready? GO!
posted by gman at 4:21 PM on June 8, 2008


I wonder if albinism is just less abruptly noticeable among white people

You're probably seeing some of this bias. I've been around a few "White" albinos and from a little distance you wouldn't really tell them from someone rather pale.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:28 PM on June 8, 2008


I saw Albino's a few times when I was working in Nigeria.

Me too, when I spent a few months in Benin City. And I noted with some interest that they were often referred to as "ebo" or "oebo"*, meaning "white man", which was the same term they used to refer to me or any "caucasian".

*Since I never saw the word written, I really have no idea if this is how it would be spelled...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:31 PM on June 8, 2008


delmoi -- "I think there is a general media bias in the western press that tends towards writing stories about weird, strange, savage stuff that happens in Africa, rather then writing about the everyday stuff that goes on."

Yeh, good point, the everyday stuff. You can learn much about a culture, the people, by peering into everyday life.

Well, I've been lucky enough to have been invited to folks homes in Africa maybe half a dozen times in three or four countries now. I've seen a little of how they lived, received their hospitality, I know they gave me their best like we would do for any guest of ours. And I hope I left them with a good impression about Americans.

But as nice as the hospitality was, the homes, the food, the company, the opportunity to learn about history and culture directly from those who had experienced it, what I found most moving about everyday life in Africa (and please keep in mind this is a very small sample of highly subjective opinion) was how folks, especially people that don't know each other, treated one another.

There's a lot of beauty in Africa: children playing butt ass nekkid in the torrential rain, intense primary colours one sees in fabrics in the street markets, the smells of food cooking on an open fire, dense layers of sounds one hears while working in or close to the jungles, so many memories. But what I remember the most, what I value the highest of all my time n Africa was seeing how ordinary people treated each other.

I'm an observer; I watch things and soak up details. This is just what I do. Its what I did in Africa.

I saw people down there barefoot, wearing crappy ass clothes, gaunt from what to my eyes appeared to be lack of nutrition, people that I rather arrogantly felt sorry for, walking down the street with a dignity that I will never be able to match in spite of what I've already achieved or what I hope to achieve, smilingly dropping coins in the cup of a beggar who was far, far worse off.

I saw a lot in Africa, and the Africa you read about in The Western media is not the Africa I been to, its not the Africa I've spent a lot of time in. Don't kid yourself: the people who live in Africa, that place we flippantly refer to as "The Death Continent", can teach a lot of people in North America and Europe a lot of things about community, things we've long ago forgotten.

It might sound trite and reading some of the comments in this thread, I really don't care if it does: but Africa changed me.

I don't think anyone of our ilk can visit Africa and not return humbled.

And lest anyone think I was on a holiday down there, in Sub Saharan Africa I was working mostly in remote border regions and even so with all the security & inoculations managed to get fucked up twice, once full scale medical evac, other time not so bad but I caught parasites that took several months of treatment to eradicate. In some ways, Africa is a messed up place and some things that happened to me - well, I probably would be better off it they hadn't.

But I wouldn't willingly change or otherwise discard any part of my experience with the people I met down there.

posted by Mutant at 4:32 PM on June 8, 2008 [13 favorites]


"When I was at primary school, people used to laugh at me, tease me - some didn't even like to touch me, saying that if they touched me they would get this colour," she said.

"People used to abuse me on the road when I took the buses to school. They would run after me - crowds of kids following me - shouting 'zeru, zeru'."

"Zeru" is a Swahili word for albino. Tanzania's albino society says that traditionally, this is a word for ghost-like creatures and is derogatory.

Since the beginning of 2000, the word has been banned.


That's very interesting. Parts of the US I have lived in had some very similar gradeschool kid stuff going on, only it was black kids picking on the Chinese kids or the white kids picking on the black kids (predominantly the latter). None of it taken as far as chasing someone down a street yelling names at them, although that does still happen here too. It seems the magnitude of the problems for albinos in Tanzania is greater, but it is interesting to me how people say similar things in different contexts-- "the color will rub off, don't touch them, we use this name for them but only behind doors nowadays."

It's quite sad. Good for her for getting appointed.
posted by Tehanu at 4:35 PM on June 8, 2008


Anybody have any info on the prevalence of albinism in different ethnic groups?

Here is the prevalence rate for a few countries in Africa. And if you scroll down to the 'Results' section in blue, there's a bunch more epidemiological answers. Worldwide, the average is 1 in 17,000.
This is the record for one single family.
posted by gman at 4:38 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've been around a few "White" albinos...

Me too. Saw Johnny Winter and his band play the Alabama State Fair around 1975! He was so wasted he could barely stand up straight, and had a couple of roadies help him onto the stage and catch him every so often when it looked like he was going to fall over. Which, admittedly, as an 18-year-old, I thought was cool. Here's Johnny at Woodstock. Listen to this, the energy of it, Johnny's vocal melody and delivery, and it's really pretty close to the more recently celebrated "punk blues" of RL Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, etc.

And remember "Frankenstein", by his (also Albino) brother Edgar Winter?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:41 PM on June 8, 2008


And of course, Africa's most famous Albino musician, Mali's Salif Keita.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:45 PM on June 8, 2008


LOVED Yellowman growing up..
posted by gman at 4:49 PM on June 8, 2008


Another Albino musician, the great Hermeto Pascual of Brazil.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:54 PM on June 8, 2008


I'm an albino. I guess that means no African safari vacations are in my future.
posted by dreamingviolet at 5:07 PM on June 8, 2008


KokuRyu The belief in witchcraft and the power of the fetish is just an extreme example of magical thinking, a kind of thinking which is no less valid than Western rational thought.

The term "magical thinking" refers to an error of thought. Like "fallacy", or "inconsistency" or "contradiction". Rational thought is not exclusively Western, nor do Westerners practice rational thought exclusively, or even practice it much. The stupid things that Westerners do, just like the stupid things everybody else does, are due to failure to practice rational thought.

Rational thought amounts to humility before the facts. To operate on the basis of things that are known to be true, or at least thought highly likely to be true. To resolve contradictions. That isn't an invention of Western thinkers, separating one race of humanity from another; it's the defining characteristic of sentient beings.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:21 PM on June 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


LOVED Yellowman growing up..

Yellowman has talked about the prejudice he faced as a kid (he was abandoned and grew up in an orphanage) and coming up as a DJ. Apparently albinos are viewed in a similar way in Jamaica as they are in Africa - people didn't want to touch him, etc. After his show-stealing performances at a few large reggae events, he became a sex symbol in Jamaica. I don't know if this improved things for other albinos, but I imagine it must have, at least a little.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:00 PM on June 8, 2008


This is a good post. Thanks, gman.
posted by dersins at 6:23 PM on June 8, 2008


Flapjax, it's spelled oyibo meaning white person.
posted by ramix at 9:04 PM on June 8, 2008


I see a few people mentioned Salif Keita, one of Mali's greatest singers. He became a singer because he was treated as an outcast. As a direct descendant of king Sundiata, music was considered an unsuitable career.
posted by mike3k at 9:48 PM on June 8, 2008


CitrusFreak12 writes "What the fuck? What year is this? These are people who live in cities and have cars, right? But they have witch doctors? And people's body parts have magical properties? They have potions?"

Not to bash anyone's beliefs, or equate them with murdering albinos, but magical thinking seems to be a human universal.

Note that millions of white, Western Christians who own cars and live in cities perform (weekly or less often, according to denomination) the ritual cannibalism known as Communion, in which the Host representing the body and blood of Jesus Christ is eaten. According to many of the denominations, in the mouth of the believers, the wafer and wine literally become the flesh and blood of Christ. (Some denominations make a strained distinction between Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation, a distinction that I've never quite understood.)

And potions? Magical fetishes? Look at Holy Water, statues of The Virgin, St. Christophers' Medals (even though he's no longer a saint), mezuzahs, Tephillin, rosary beds (both Catholic and Muslim), crosses or Mogen Davids on necklaces, fragments of the supposed true cross or the Roman centurion's spear that killed Christ. Rabbits' feet, Amish hex-signs, lucky horseshoes, John McCain's magic feather.

Human parts? Look no further than the hearts of saints interred in special vessels in cathedrals, the bones of saints in reliquaries, the Chinese worship of ancestors' bones or that making of fetishes from the remains of deceased children.

Again, not bashing anyone's beliefs, not equating the murder of albinos with taking Communion, just pointing out that magical thinking and the belief that objects, including human body parts, have magical powers is cross-cultural nad not limited to Africans, the poor, third-worlders, or the uneducated.
posted by orthogonality at 9:58 PM on June 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks, ramix!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:44 PM on June 8, 2008


John McCain's Magic Feather.

(I had to look.)
posted by rokusan at 2:48 AM on June 9, 2008


Flapjax, it's spelled oyibo meaning white person.
Or oyinbo, apparently (via this thread), flapjax at midnite was there too.
posted by tellurian at 7:46 AM on June 9, 2008


Indeed I was, tellurian! Didn't see that link, though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:40 AM on June 9, 2008


Excellent point, ortho.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 2:54 PM on June 9, 2008


the ritual cannibalism known as Communion

Symbolic cannibalism.

Quite a bit short of regularly and ritually clubbing somebody and actually eating them.

Again, not bashing anyone's beliefs, not equating the murder of albinos with taking Communion

You kind of were though.

just pointing out that magical thinking and the belief that objects, including human body parts, have magical powers is cross-cultural and not limited to Africans, the poor, third-worlders, or the uneducated.

I am going to go out on limb here and say that the vast majority of people don't REALLY believe most of the superstitious Rabbits-Foot type bullshit they do. Not consciously. But I think in tribal societies that shit is real to them.

Sure. Many people in the west believe in bullshit like the holy tortilla with the visage of the Virgin Mary or that Jesus came back from the dead. But those things are peripheral to another larger set of core religious beliefs where the kookier portions have long since been culled for the majority of people. Rapture-ists excepted.

Occasionally you may get fringe nuts who are interpreting a verse here and there into a Children of The Corn type life wherree they will ritually murder but by and large what we think of as 'magic' practiced by humans is looked down upon and almost immediately scoffed at. If you seriously found a politician for instance who believed for real in a magic rabbits foot to the point of KILLING over it I don't think he would make it very far.

Where as in many tribal societies the witch doctor and shaman holds political power WITH the practice of magic.

Frankly I think it's all ultimately bullshit and the essential enemy to reason. Yes, I WILL cast a skeptical eye at peoples magical bullshit beliefs and pitch them shit. Catholicism, Scientology, Hinduism and Buddhism included.

Philosophical systems don't get an automatic pass just because there is magic spirit and intense emotions involved. There is ritual pedophilia, murder, racism and torture tied to certain faiths and philosophies through out human history. Human sacrifice used to be a KEY central component religious practices all over the world for centuries. So. Uh-uh. Religion doesn't get an automatic bye.

But I don't think it warrants lumping every supernatural belief in with frigg'n murdering real people to use body parts skin in magic frigg'n potions.
posted by tkchrist at 6:09 PM on June 9, 2008


very soon rational thinking will destroy the human species.

The human species will be just fine. However, rational thought is the ONLY thing that will save human civilization. Rational thought and reason are not divorced from compassion. It is an essential component.

It's superstitious bullshit, irrational thought, and greed that are root of all our problems.

It's funny how people think rational thought=OMG NUCLEAR WAR!

My god if we stopped believing in magic THERE WILL BE NO MORE DANCING OR MUSIC OR ART!
posted by tkchrist at 6:32 PM on June 9, 2008


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