MULTIRACIAL REDHEADS CHALLENGE THE WAY WE SEE RACE via Swirl Nation Blog

Recently I came across this Upworthy article from 2015 that shared images that photographer Michelle Marshall takes of individuals with the MC1R gene variant, which is the gene mutation that causes red hair and freckles.

Only 1-2% of the world's population boasts natural red hair, which is caused by a genetic mutation in the melanocortin-1 receptor, or MC1R. For the most part when asked to describe a redhead, we probably would imagine someone of Caucasian descent. 

However, when Marshall was working on a photography project specifically about freckles, she met an adorable redheaded girl who she was surprised to learn was mixed race which then inspired her to find other mixed race redheads. 

She explains her focus in her artist statement:

"I am currently interested in documenting the incidence of the MC1R gene variant responsible for red hair and freckles, particularly amongst black/mixed raced individuals of all ages. I want to stir the perception that most of us have of a 'ginger' person as a white caucasian individual potentially of Celtic descent.

Whilst there seems to be a strong Irish/Scottish connection to the MCR1 gene in the occurrence of red hair, does being ginger still only means being Scottish, Irish, Welsh or even a white caucasian individual?  As we struggle with issues of immigration, discrimination and racial prejudice, Mother Nature, meanwhile, follows its own course, embracing society’s plurality and, in the process, shaking up our perceptions about origins, ethnicity and identity.  

Yet, statistics do not seem to reflect everyone."

 

The artist's main objective is to connect people. In an interview with Vice magazine she said, 

"A lot of [my photo subjects] have been feeling quite isolated, I got a message from one boy who said, 'I didn't realize there were so many of us' — I've not even shot 50 people. But the fact that he was able to see a cluster of people that matched his identify and could relate to that is quite positive."

And as the Upworthy article states: 

That's why it's so important that we open our eyes and celebrate the diversity in the world. Not only does it encourage us to challenge our own preconceived notions — for example, by showing us that redheads don't have to be white — but it also helps those people see themselves (or helps us see ourselves) represented in the world.

 

 

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