Being Ambiguously Ethnic: Somali Origins

सुप्रभात – Sorry, what?

Hola, que tal? – Nope, no Spanish. Sorry.Question-mark-blackandwhite

مساء الخير – Salam, I guess.

Bom dia! – Yeah… was that Spanish?

It’s not like I wouldn’t like to be able to speak Hindi, Spanish, Arabic or Portuguese. But let’s just say I’m not there yet. This scenario happens quite often: People approaching me with a big smile on their face thinking they found a fellow countryman (or countrywoman in my case). I had to disappoint them all.

I’m half Somali, half Swiss. A strange mixture, which lead to me looking like an Arab. “What? Your mother is black? I wouldn’t have guessed!” is the normal reaction. Normally followed by another quick face scan like they’re trying to find any hint of blackness on my face. I don’t need your validation to be biracial, thank you.

Somali/Belgium Family

But what is it about Somali people mixed with white people that almost all of us are very light skinned? I tried to find out – but I failed since nobody seems to really know. You find a bunch of ideas and statistics, which try to explain why the Somali look the way they look. The basis to finding out why I look the way I look.

Somali come in all shades of brown and black and share facial features with Caucasian ethnicities. Which leads to idea number one:

1. Somali are Black Caucasian.

Wikipedia about the Caucasian race:

“The  Caucasian race  (also  Caucasoid[1]  or  Europid[2]) is a grouping of human beings historically regarded as a biological  taxon, including some or all of the populations of  EuropeNorth Africa, the  Horn of AfricaWestern AsiaCentral Asia  and  South Asia.[3]  The term has been used in  biological anthropology  for many people from these regions, without regard necessarily to  skin tone.[4]  First introduced in early  racial science  and  anthropometry, the term denoted one of the three purported major races of humankind (Caucasoid,  MongoloidNegroid).[5]  Manysocial scientists  have argued that such analyses are rooted in sociopolitical and historical processes rather than in empirical observation.[6]However,  Caucasoid  as a biological classification remains in use in  forensic anthropology.[7]

The German version of Wikipedia says that this race categorizing system is not in use anymore because it’s outdated and is rejected by science. So, the confusion begins.

2. Somali are Descendants of Arabs

This is actually what I believed growing up. And it made sense to me – especially seeing we halflings almost all look like arabs. Wiki about the Somali ethnicity even supported this idea with statistics: The Somali gene pool seems to be made out of around 60% African and 40% Eurasian genes. Although this study seems to refer mostly to the female x chromosomes. A newer study shows that the male x chromosomes only show about 15% Eurasian influence. This also makes sense to me, since I always felt my male relatives were darker than most of my female relatives. Is this the true origin?

Somali Couple

3. Somali is the oldest Ethnicity

Some Somali take pride in the “common knowledge” that humankind seems to have originated in East Africa. But science actually shows that the Khoisan are the oldest ethnic group. Taking a look at these pictures of Khoisan people it’s like looking at a black asian-white mix. A little bit of everything. This might be the original race.

What to Believe?

If we trust science and go with the 60% African and 40% Eurasian assumption  we might have an explanation why people like me end up with stronger Eurasian traits. We just have weaker African genes. But does it really matter in the end?  No it doesn’t. It’s interesting but it doesn’t matter as long as we see each other as one people, one race. Because that’s what we are. We all have different cultures, traditions, beliefs but ultimately there’s just one kind of humans. The humankind.

your unspoiltmind


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