That layer of black pigment in the skin, called melanin,
which all normal human beings have, so thin it can be measured only in
millionths of an inch, and of which the density of color granules present
in different races can hardly be statistical … some believe that
the degree of melanin is the only difference between black and other races.
The model for this sketch is a full blood Papuan, a negroid
race, ordinarily very dark skinned. Though he has less pigment in his skin
than the fairest of white men … he is an albino … he could
hardly be mistaken for anything but what he is, member of a negroid family.
Albinism is a congenital deficiency and of all the incurable
misfortunes to be inflicted on man, a lack of pigment in one living under
the Equatorial sun of New Guinea is the greatest handicap. Normally the
sun stimulates the increase of melanin as a protection to underlying tissues,
but if the cells can produce no pigment, as in albinism, both the skin
and sub-layers suffer acutely. The skin of the model was parched and scabby,
blotched red with half healed burns. And though the temperature during
the sitting was comfortable for everyone else, he seemed to find it chilly.
He crouched over his knees hugging his body … leaping frantically
to his feet at the whine of a mosquito. This in a land where there are
millions of times more mosquitoes than men! Even the reflection of sunlight
on the ground near him was painful to his unpigmented eyes.
But the most pronounced impression he gave was of nakedness among his fellows,
equally nude but decently clothed in their thin layer of melanin.