Did you know that today kids with red hair get called “gingers” and are teased, even bullied for their hair color? The first I heard of it, my red-headed grandson told me it was really tough to have red hair because kids called him a “ginger” and teased him. This astounded me as I always admired red hair and had, in fact, often wished for it myself.
So where did all this originate? It is evidently a situation that has long existed in northern European countries, but it appears the TV show “South Park” is responsible for its spread here. In an episode aired in November of 2005, Cartman, a character on the show, delivered a school speech in which he declared that gingers have no souls and are the tools of the devil. Their red hair is the color of their master. Cartman urged that redheads be exterminated and though by the end of the episode he decided he was mistaken, the damage was already done. The insults and teasing began here. In 2009, in Calgary, there was even a “Kick a Ginger Day.” With the availability of the internet, this type of story spreads rapidly.
Historically discrimination against red-heads dates back to Ancient Egypt where the god Set, who had red hair, was associated with natural disasters such as earthquakes, thunderstorms, and eclipses. Red-headed humans were sacrificed to appease his rage. In 15th century England, redheads were accused of being witches and were burned at the stake.
Scientifically red hair comes about when a person has two copies of a relatively rare recessive gene resulting in a mutation on MC1R protein. Having little background in science and none in genetics, I’ll leave it at that.
Statistically red hair is a Celtic trait and the highest percentage is found among Scots (13 %) and Irish (10%) although it is often common among Ashkenazi Jews as well. In the U.S. anywhere from 2 – 6% have red hair. This means that in the U.S. a person with red hair “stands out in the crowd” and this makes them an easy target for teasing or bullying, especially when they are young.
Kermit the Frog said, “It’s not easy being green.” For some kids, it’s not easy being a red-head!
© Dorothy C. Judd
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