Rumor has it that redheads are blending with the rest of humans and gradually disappearing. They may no longer exist 100 years from now.
And at the same time, red hair is suddenly everywhere.
How could both developments be true?
I asked a redhead about that. And I didn’t go so far as to think there was some kind of sudden population explosion among red-headed people. I realized I was witnessing the miracle of hair dye.
But why, I asked the redhead, are women and girls suddenly turning red on the head?
“Red,” she said, “is the new blonde.”
Here comes the red fad.
Apparently, the new hair color doesn’t involve the alleged disappearance of redheads in the world. According to one expert, that rumor is mistaken.
“People really shouldn’t believe everything they read on the Internet, ” said Joshua Akey, associate professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington. “There is no scientifically compelling basis to the claim that redheads will become extinct in 100 years,” he told MSN News.
I am relieved to learn that people with red hair, pure white skin, freckles and blue eyes shall not perish from the Earth. They aren’t going to disappear from the Earth like blondes without bleach.
I am among those natural redheads. I am what you might call a retired redhead. I had the freckles, those dreamy blue eyes that are so popular with red hair, and while I never had red head hair, my younger beard was red. When that turned gray, I was no longer suspected of being a redhead.
I miss that status because red hair was once a rare and tremendously attractive condition. That global website Wikipedia says real red hair involves only 1 percent to 2 percent of the human race (including Neanderthals).
But I have also discovered that some nut jobs consider red hair a mark of racial inferiority. Just as there have been unkind blonde jokes running rampant around the globe, Great Britain is especially fond of jokes about “Gingers,” as some call redheads. Those insults follow the myth that Gingers are boneheads who are sexually unattractive.
(People who think redheads are sexually unattractive have obviously never seen a Maureen O’Hara movie.)
Actually, I suspect a deliberate fib that is being used to teach some Irish louts how it feels to be regarded as inferior. Those who have suffered through history with poverty, minimal education and second-class status are likely to seek someone else to look down on. And sometimes I think that weak tendency includes my Irish brethren.
So what better way to teach bigoted Irish that lesson than to create a joke mythology about how incompetent, stupid and ugly Gingers like me are?
Tim Minchin is an enormously gifted red-headed Australian comedian, singer and pianist. He has written a song about a Ginger in which he spells out a racist word with a “g” here and an “r” there that he pretends to suggest is the spelling of Ginger. As he concludes the song, he somehow makes the audience realize that those exact same letters can be used to spell a word commonly used by anti-black bigots (some of whom are Gingers).
It’s an old story in this slowly healing world. Racial insults can become boomerangs. Today, it may be your slur hurting someone else. But when you participate in racial insults and direct them against others, you risk contributing to a climate in which boomerangs readily return to you on the winds of bigotbabble.
I fear that when you name sports teams things like Redskins or Savages, it’s just a matter of time before some Indian school starts calling its team the Ginger Journalists.Contact columnist Bill Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.