THE WORD ALBINO IS used to refer to an abnormal genetic condition that can occur in plants, insects, and animals; it can also be stretched to characterize inanimate objects, but it should never be used to describe a person. The preferred phrase is a “person with albinism,” which conveys dignity and respect. In your article (“White on Black,” 2/9), you told a story that needed to be shared with the world.
I know Virginia Small and understand her ongoing struggle with her identity and self-esteem; I too share her pain. I hope that Virginia and many persons like her eventually discover who they really are. But I also know many persons with albinism who are well adjusted, have wonderful families, beautiful children, successful careers, and are enjoying life to the fullest in spite of their albinism. There are many who live in the shadow-and-glass world, “in the shadows” on the fringe of society and whose feelings are so fragile that they are unable to cope with man’s inhumanity on a day-to-day basis.
I realized long ago that race is
not a color, but a state of mind. Although I am lighter than most Caucasians, I know I am black, where it counts, inside. Albinism in a way helps all persons affected by it better understand and appreciate their ethnicity and cultural diversity. The amount of melanin in our skin does not define who we are and should not determine one’s self-worth. While exploring the negative, dark side of albinism made for a more intriguing article, it was difficult, even painful, to read in some places. No stereotypical stone was left unturned, and in some instances the author was downright callous and insensitive. The constant use of the term albino was also derogatory. I did not want the upside to get lost in all that white powder Pamela Margoshes churned up. That is, the hope and celebration of life and living that most persons with albinism experience every day. My only caveat in life is that I demand mutual respect. I have found peace of mind and I hope that others with albinism embrace it too.