Melanin, afrocentricity, and pseudoscience



A component of the Afrocentric movement has incorporated a theory that black people, including ancient Egyptians, have superior mental, physical, and paranormal powers because they have more melanin both in their skin and in their brains. By extension it is also claimed that black people have more melatonin and β-MSH in their systems and that these compounds also contribute to the superiority of people of color over whites. In this paper, these claims are detailed and refuted. A review of the genetics and biochemistry of human pigmentation shows that all humans have similar amounts of neuromelanin (brain melanin), and that its concentration is absolutely independent of skin color; that adult humans do not synthesize β-MSH; and that human melatonin has no clearly demonstrable physiological function and no relationship to skin color. “Melanists” also distort human evolution by claiming that European whites are descendants of negroid albinos. The main problems posed by this ideological movement are that it will increase the already rampant scientific illiteracy in this country, it will contribute to further widening the gap between the races, and, most importantly, it is being introduced into the public school curriculum under the guise of multicultural education. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.