skin of color 2010
Posted Thu, Jan 21, 2010

Skin of color is a term in dermatology referring to people other than Caucasian . It came about because of recognition of some of the unique characteristics of darker skinned people with regard to treating skin disease or signs of aging. For instance, a laser may cause lightening or darkening of skin color in a darker skinned patient and yet be perfectly safe for a white skinned Caucasian.

Somewhat conversely, Elliott Battle Jr, MD, noted dermatologist and African American, was speaking over the weekend and said that in the future there will be no reference to skin of color but rather to skin of ethnic origin. He pointed out that by 2050, 65% of the American population will have skin of some color and differences in skin will refer to genetic differences of ethnic origin and not how brown or yellow our skin color might be.

Flashback: I am at the University of Illinois in 1963 and I am working with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr, preparing for the march on Selma Alabama. Like my father before me I believe fervently in the equality of all men and I want to do my part in the struggle for parity among people. I am in a church training for the march and we are simulating being beaten by trainers to prepare us for what lay ahead. The male marchers lay across the females to protect their bodies at the same time covering our heads while we expose our kidneys to whatever violence may follow. The trainers call a halt to the exercise and as we rise we note a 5 year old little girl lying on the floor in the middle of the room having assumed a fetal position as she imitates our protective posture. Tears well up and it is hard to continue. Many of us, myself included, cannot handle the stress. I cannot march. I raise funds instead.

Then as now I am not color blind. I have no control of my awareness of color or ethnicity despite the enrichment each unique culture brings. Yet I am ashamed that I am not color blind. Frederick Douglas said Abraham Lincoln was the only man he ever met that was truly color blind. I am pleased that Dr Battle sees the future pragmatically and optimistically. We are not a nation of color because we are all shades of color, shades of light, shades of dark. We are genetic variations of ethnic origin and the uniqueness of our breeding: Irish, Mexican, Brazilian, African, Anglo-Saxon, Ashkenazi Jew, characterizes our diversity. “I have seen the enemy, and it is us” said Pogo. The future has arrived.

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Edward Lack
Edward Lack MD is a board certified dermatologist and a board certified dermatologic cosmetic surgeon. He is President and Medical Director of MetropolitanMD, a multispecialty cosmetic surgery center in Chicago,which is unique in having a double board certified cosmetic dermatologic surgeon, a double board certified facial plastic surgeon, and a double board certified cosmetic plastic surgeon. Dr. Lack is also the Past President of The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.

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