My friend Derek told me a myth that he learned from his father when he was about 12 or 13 years old.  The myth explains why people have all different shades of skin color.  Derek said that according to the myth his father told him that when the Earth was first created there was just one giant continent and running through the middle of the continent was a one giant river.  He said that everyone living on the continent was very dark but at the at top of the river, near the opening or delta of the river the people would wash themselves in the river and they eventually became lighter and lighter until their skin was not dark anymore but instead it was white.  The water continued to flow down the river and the people further along the river also washed themselves with the river’s water.  Derek said that their skin became lighter but not as white as the people before them because the water was had already been used and wasn’t as clean.  Derek said then towards the bottom of the river there was hardly any water left so the people who lived there could only wash the palms of their hands, the bottom on their feet and their lips.

According to Derek this myth is supposed to explain the difference in skin color and appearance of different people.  He said the people who washed themselves in the river first are supposed to be white people and the people towards the bottom of the river are supposed to be black people.  Everyone in between has various shades of skin color, representing all the other ethnicities or races.  Ultimately the skin color of the people is supposed to get progressively darker as you move down the river.  Derek said he doesn’t remember why his father told him this myth but he said he remembers the myth because he thought it was a funny way of trying to explain different skin colors.  I agree it is a sort of comical way of reasoning why people have different skin colors but I also think it could be taken offensively for the reason that the logic behind the myth is that basically people were washing the dirt of themselves with the river water and the people at the bottom of the river could get their skin to be as light because the river water had already been used by so many people and was dirty.  But I’m sure that the myth is not intended to be offensive or suggest that people of darker skin tones are “dirty”.  However I think that the fact that the myth is comical adds to its popularity.  Like jokes, this myth explores race and skin color, often things that are not normally acceptable to discuss in society.  People are always saying that its not what’s on the outside like skin color that matters or should matter.  Because we are taught not to point out difference is skin color this myth be a humorous way of poking fun at something that you are really supposed to joke about.

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