Yes, Black People Can Be Redheads

Jennifer R. Povey
3 min readSep 26, 2022
Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash

So, the racists are still not shutting up about Ariel. And one of the sentiments that is driving me nuts boils down to: “I’m fine with Black elves and hobbits, but Ariel is a redhead.”

One of them even went “Show yourself real Black gingers.”

They shouldn’t have to. Because yes there are Black redheads. Not that many of them, but they exist. Halle Berry is not one, so she is sporting artificial ginger for the role (but that’s pretty much what ginger looks like on a Black person).

What Makes Somebody a Redhead?

Red hair is most often caused by a mutation on the MCR1 gene. This is actually technically a defect (sorry to the one I married) and comes with a whole host of other traits including higher pain tolerance, higher tolerance for anesthesia (meaning dosage has to be higher), vulnerability to certain cancers, etc. There is also a possible connection with left handedness…redheads and carriers of the gene are more likely to be left handed.

The common MCR1 mutation that is carried primarily by people from northern Europe is recessive, which means it can hide for generations and then crop up. The highest concentration of the common gene mutation is in Scotland.

It’s more common in the north because the biggest health issue redheads have is susceptibility to skin cancer. This is selected out in the tropics, but not so much in Scotland. I’ve been to Scotland!

If I had chosen to have children, they might have been redheads. My partner is a redhead, and so was my grandmother. My mother was left handed, had hazel eyes, and high pain tolerance, meaning that something was allowing partial expression of the MCR1 mutation, but her hair (to her annoyance) was still dark. I’m a typical brunette, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find I’m a carrier if I bothered to look.

So, About Those Black Redheads

The majority of Black people living in America and Europe have some white ancestry. Often the result of rape. Yeah, I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

This means that African-Americans, Black British, Afro-Caribbeans, etc, can carry the MCR1 mutation from a Scottish or Scandinavian ancestor. If they marry somebody…

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Jennifer R. Povey

I write about fantasy, science fiction and horror, LGBT issues, travel, and social issues.