THE SOULS OF GINGER FOLK
Whether or not it was trendy, it was definitely popular. That is, citing "Africa" as reference for anything outlandish or incredible. If you wanted attention or needed a conversation piece, all you need do was employ the deviant part of your imagination and cite "It happened in Africa."
My college friend, Hans, and I used to take note whenever these kinds of attributions were made. I, hailing from Germany and he, native to Zambia, would be interrogated by people who thought themselves intelligent. Questions like "What do you guys eat?" Being from Germany, I could say "dandelion roots and nettles," and they might believe me because, I don't know, dandelions and nettles sound on the reasonable side of absurd things for Germans to eat.
However, I could not say "Hyena crap and spider webs." That would be pushing it. But Hans could say it, and they would believe him. He was, after all, from Africa, and Africa is far enough away geographically (and imaginatively) that any conceivable thing that would not happen in the Western Hemisphere could happen in Africa.
While on one hand it was funny, it was insulting on the other. One night, tired of answering the most trivial questions as seriously as possible, Hans convinced our dinner table of college girls that if in Africa you do not balance your fork on the end of your butter knife at the end of a meal, then you insult your host. Hans and I left the table with girls practicing "African etiquette", their brows furrowed and each muttering condolences to themselves.
I think that resources like National Geographic falling into the hands of the wrong person whose breadth of global culture is Ranger Rick or CCM magazine might largely be responsible for the proliferation of idiocy and the reinforcement of biases that hold no credibility whatsoever. A hallmark of cultured people is their intuition and anticipation of the complex spectrum of legitimate, cultural options within the human genome portfolio. And they can ascertain the merits of each.
Living in Germany from the 70's to the 90's, Americans snickered at the Southern German's seeming disinterest in daily showering and "perfuming." Would that make the German inferior? Of course, it wouldn't, and if you were cultured you would know that. Which would you rather be: occasionally showered and as healthy as a horse or a scrub-cleaned, daily deoderized, fat slob who shoves fat and high fructose corn syrup down his gullet and headed towards a certain mortality date at 48 years of age? Now you see the German merit from a German view.
While in Germany during the summer of 1994, I was unnerved to hear that the civil unrest in Rwanda had gotten so seriously out of hand that America was looking at intervening. No less than a year before, America got involved in Somalia, and the result was Black Hawk Down.
As I understood it, Belgian colonials long ago had divided the Rwandan people into two groups (Moderns love the artificial dichotomy). The one group was Tutsi while the other group was Hutu. Simplified, the Tutsi and Hutu were largely distinguished according to physical traits. The Tutsi (being taller, thinner, and having longer noses) were assumed to be close relatives of the Caucasoid people and, therefore, superior. The Hutu (being shorter, stockier, with flatter noses) were considered inferior to their Tutsi brothers. The Belgian distinction, however, did not take into account that individual families had members with both the Tutsi and Hutu descriptions. It made no difference when the Rwandan conflict began. These families were divided "down the middle."
Having said all that, I think the category of "Ginger" to be a similar travesty. While I've been aware of the term "Ginger" for the last year or so, I originally considered it to be a term of endearment and found their plight to be almost humorous. Considering, however, that the origin of Ginger discrimination seems to have originated in the UK (It only benignly reared its head in America via South Park), I'm reconsidering my concern.
The Irish and Scottish (allegedly the "Ginger" genetic strains and entry points into Great Britain proper) have had a turbulent history with England. From the early days of Hadrian's Wall (originally built to keep the Scots out of England) and the early days of the Irish & British conflicts, these tensions have been fresh in the memories of all three people-groups. While living in England, I recall one evening watching via BBC the Northern Irish attack two RAF soldiers off duty in Ireland. And I don't know how many times the IRA set off bombs on British interests.
All I'm saying is that the Ginger issue on the tiny island-kingdom of England has volatile roots with a spurious history. I mean... look at this:
Here's a rather "informative" chart:
And this is just plain treacherous:
Surely there must be more categories than this in America:
In America Redheads (Americans call them Redheads) are as mysterious and as special as they are rare.
I'm certain Americans could never successfully discriminate against Gingers or any descriptively-elusive group. A good many of our population are Scotch-Irish. Proud vertebrae in our national backbone. In America Scotch-Irish temper is to be feared and avoided at all costs. Gingers (and the so-called Ginger gene) are among us. They are us. Intricately woven into our national DNA, peppering our households and communities with their mystique and beauty.
While American masses wonder what kinds of foods and drinks people on other continents consume or how they use the restroom or what clothes they wear or how often they shower, Americans don't wonder such things about Gingers. We are less philosophical and more practical than that. We want to know answers to questions like "If I kissed a Ginger, would I grow red hair?" Benign. Deep. American.