Africa: The Human Birthplace

Ed Raymond

Memo To My Fellow Africans

Science tells us that anatomically modern human beings started to evolve in Africa from our very close relatives the chimps and apes about 300,000 years ago. We are still not sure of the exact time and place in Africa, but recent fossils discovered in Morocco have human features. According to scientists in many fields, we humans stayed in central Africa for the next 200,000 years, slowly evolving our features and bodies while beginning to move around the continent. Some humans left Africa about 60,000 years ago and began to explore the world. A line in the April 2018 National Geographic, which is all about “race” problems around the world today, stands out in its simplicity: “In a very real sense, all people today are Africans.”

  The intricate science of genetics tells us that all non-African Homo Sapiens on Planet Earth are descendents of a few thousand humans who left that continent about 60,000 years ago. Because of human fossil finds around the globe, we know that native Aussies reached Australia about 50,000 years ago. Siberian Russians arrived 45,000 years ago. Europeans and South Asians reached their respective homelands about 29,000 years ago. Humans reached much of South America around 15,000 years ago.

OK, the tough question. If we are all from Africa, how come we have so many different shapes and colors? Many genes that are even in mice and fish before we evolved are in us and affect how melanin, the determiner of human color, colors us. As we left Africa and traveled to colder or hotter continents, genes mutated to make us lighter or darker to make life easier. Different mutations by latitudes made Swedes blonde and Nigerians black. Pick up a National Geographic and see the thousands of variations in the color of Homo Sapiens.

Of Dust And Ribs

If you want to believe that God made Adam out of dust and Eve out of Adam’s rib, and that all of creation occurred 10,000 years ago, be my guest. The dynamic quest for scientific answers continues. One paragraph from the Geographic article emphasizes the complexity of the world we live in and why we are pink or brown: “The mutation that’s most responsible for giving Europeans lighter skin is a single tweak in a gene known as SLC24AS, which consists of roughly 20,000 pairs. In one position, where most sub-Saharan Africans have a G, Europeans have an A. (This mutation came about 29,000 years ago, or about the same time humans moved to Europe.) About a decade ago a pathologist and geneticist named Keith Cheng of Penn State College of Medicine discovered the mutation by studying zebrafish that had been bred to have lighter stripes. The fish, it turned out, possessed a mutation in a pigment gene analogous to the one that is mutated in Europeans.” Got that? People who survive lower quantities of oxygen in the Andes or Tibet mountains have had several mutations to help them breathe. Inuit people have had to have several mutations to survive a fatty-acid marine-based diet. The fact is genes randomly mutate over a long time.

Humans have thousands of highly variable hues and skin tones. Near the Equator lots of sunlight makes dark skin a useful shield against ultraviolet radiation. Near the North and South poles, where there is little sun, pale skin is necessary for the production of Vitamin D. In Africa the color of skin ranges from ebony to copper to many shades of brown. Finding your ethnic background through DNA tests is becoming quite popular—and is shocking to some. A young woman whose family had always lived in India was shocked to discover some of her ancestry was Irish. Another woman learned her grandfather was not a Native American, countering what he had told her all of her life.

We All Bleed Red, Have The Same Size Brains, And Walk On Two Appendages

So what’s the big deal about race? Religions, tribes, and isolation encourage differences in humans. Attitudes seem to melt away when we get to know people from other tribes. We are even beginning to recognize dozens of gender identities that have been around for thousands of years. Binaries and transgenders are fascinating results.

One of the world’s “colorful” humans has the following resume’, and at one time was recognized as the best-known human in the world: 

(1) was a published poet, 

(2) was embraced by many as an ambassador of peace and goodwill around the world, 

(3) was considered a hero of the anti-war protests during the Vietnam War, 

(4) starred in a Broadway musical, 

(5) was nominated for a Grammy Award, 

(6) created a Columbia Records album known as the comedy album of the year, 

(7) was recognized for sacrificing everything for a principle, 

(8) was a civil rights leader on the world scene, 

(9) appeared on many leading magazine covers, 

(10) although suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, he was chosen to light the Olympic flame for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, 

(11) was an accomplished magician, 

(12) was considered a voice for equality, and

 (13) was known as the first modern rapper.

The above list is the partial resume’ of Cassius Clay, a black kid that came out of the Louisville, Kentucky ghetto to win an Olympic boxing championship at age 18 and the professional world heavyweight title at 22. He later changed his name to Muhammad Ali when he became a Muslim. He said Cassius was a slave name and that Muhammad means “beloved of God.” I have kept a file on Ali for many years, not because of his triumphs and defeats in the ring. As an English teacher and a lover and teacher of poets Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot, I recognized this black kid was a damn good poet. He had quick hands, quick feet—and a quicker mind. We have many people who call themselves Christians in this world who still believe “colored” people were created for one purpose: to serve the white race. If you don’t believe this, please check out the Christian Identity Church and the white supremacists who spell this out every day in blogs.

Is One Color Intellectually Inferior In Any Way To Another?

According to most geneticists at this point there is no evidence that one color or one gender of the human race is intellectually superior to another. A minority says there may be genetic research in the future to disprove that. As an example, Charles Murray has been preaching for years that Latinos and blacks are intellectually inferior to whites using examples from IQ tests. He has forgotten IQ tests were written by white folks educated in white schools. Tribes experience different cultures. White evangelicals, Southern Baptists, and Roman Catholics around the world have tried to turn females into the inferior gender for hundreds of years. Mormons have just gotten around to accepting some blacks as equals.

The current “#Me Too” campaign by women is designed to assert gender equality. Everyone should read the bio of Sarah Moore Grimke’ whose lawyer father told her in the beginning of the 19th Century that if she had been a man, she would have been the greatest lawyer in South Carolina. Sarah was an important 19th Century speaker of the abolitionist movement and women’s suffrage. The daughter of a wealthy planter who owned many slaves, at 12 Sarah started teaching Bible classes to young slaves on Sunday afternoons. She taught her personal slave Hetty to read and write—which was against the laws of South Carolina. Sarah wrote later: “I took an almost malicious satisfaction in teaching my little waiting maid at night, when she was supposed to be occupied combing and brushing my locks.”  Sarah and her sister traveled throughout New England preaching for the abolishment of slavery and against the idea that women were inferior to men. Sarah was an angry woman. She didn’t pull any punches in her speeches and editorials: “All history attests that man has subjected women to his will, used her as a means to promote his selfish gratification, to minister to his sensual pleasures, to be instrumental in promoting his comfort, but never has he desired to elevate her to that rank she was created to fill. He has done all he could to debase and enslave her mind; and now he looks triumphantly on the ruin he has wrought, and say, the being he has thus deeply injured is his inferior.” She is a very quotable human. Her mind was not “enslaved.”

Ali: “I’m The Onliest Poet Laureate Boxing’s Ever Had”

Known as the “Louisville Lip” in his early boxing life, Ali decided to become a conscientious objector when eligible for the Vietnam draft because of his Muslim religion’s objection to fighting in Christian wars---but a speech outlined his real objections were based on color: “My conscience won’t let me go shooting my brother, or some darker people or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me a nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father…Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people?” Ali was arrested for avoiding the draft but was finally cleared by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971.

Because of speeches like this Ali was kept out of boxing for four years, costing him many millions of dollars. This stand showed he was willing to sacrifice everything for a principle.
Years later after he was cleared by the courts, he told an interviewer on Pacifica Radio: “I’m proud to say that I am the first man in the history of all America, athlete and entertainer-wise, who gave up all the white man’s money, looked the white man  in the eye, and told them the truth, and stayed with his people.”

  His most famous poem was “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,/ The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.” I think this poem shows his indomitable spirit: “I’ve wrestled with alligators, /I’ve tusseled with a whale, /I done handcuffed lightning, / And throw’d thunder in jail.”  He once told TV host Dick Cavett while being interviewed: “I like your show and I like your style, but your pay’s so bad I won’t be back for a while!”

“The Truth” — As Ali Saw It

Many of his poems are about promoting boxing and his fights. He is particularly funny when “poeming” about Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Archie Moore, and the dozens of others he took on in the ring. But he wrote about serious stuff, too. He called “The Truth” his masterpiece. It’s close.

“The face of truth is open, the eyes of truth are bright
The lips of truth are ever closed, the head of truth is upright.
The breast of truth stands forward, the gaze of truth is straight
Truth has neither fear nor doubt, truth has patience to wait.
The soul of truth is flaming, the heart of truth is warm
The mind of truth is clear, and firm through rain or storm.”

   There are more stanzas, but I think you get the idea.  Muhammad and Sarah are equal to any white, black, pink, yellow, brown Homo Sapiens in the world.