African-American with green eyes?

I met with a woman today, my banker, who was clearly African-American. Of course, most African-Americans have a mixture of African, European, Native-American genes, but she did look rather “black,” if one is to assess such things. But she also had very light, striking green eyes which were clearly not contact lenses.

Most black people have brown eyes, but do African-Americans sometimes have eyes of other colors? Is it quite rare?

Thanks for any info or insights.

I wouldn’t say “quite rare”, but not the most common thing. Just guessing from my experiences, I’d say maybe 10-15% of black people of non-biracial parentage have “light” eyes–usually hazel or green. Often it’s linked to lighter complexions, but not always.

I’m black, my family’s black…well mostly back, but also have a mixture of Cherokee, Lakota Sioux, French and Scottish. I’d guess a lotof the US black population has some traces of white. I have several green-eyed realtives, even some with blonde and red hair…who are black, not all are dark, but have black features. My brother, who is, I guess what most would call, typically black complected, and his wife, same complection, have a two year old who is fair-skinned, black hair and blue eyes. My mom said one of my other brothers had grey eyes until he was 5. My fiance is Irish with salt andpepper hair and green-blue eyes…I’m dark with very dark brown eyes…I’m curious to see how our kids will look. We’rea motley crew…our contribution to the melting pot. :slight_smile: :dubious: (interracial couple smileys :smack: )

I think most that do have green eyes may have some non-black blood somewhere along the line. I had a black coworker with green eyes and when I asked him about it he revealed his grandmother was white.

That would indicate that the frequency of light coloured eyes is not significatly less common among Black people than amongst Whites. I find that impossible to believe.

Remember only around 40% of the population of western Europe have light coloured eyes. For Europe overall the percentage is 15-20% because blue eyes are much rarer in western Europe and the Mediterranean. That means that the eye colours of “black people of non-biracial parentage” are either the same as for Europeans, or only marginally different.

The problem here I suspect is that “black people of non-biracial parentage” is an approximately meaningless term. A child of Halle Berry and Colin Powell would be a black person of non-biracial parentage depsite being slightly paler than I am. If we change the criterion to the more meaningful and objective “person with less than 25% Negro ancestry” then I think your estimates are way off. In my experience less than 1% of such people have eyes other than brown.

Which answers the questions: African-Americans sometimes have light coloured eyes, as do some African Negroes. However it is rare for people without a majority of Caucasian heritage to have such eye colours. As the percentage of Caucasian ancestry increases it becomes more common.

  1. I supect that any Black person in North America who didn’t immigrate in the last three generations has some non-black blood somewhere along the line, so the statement essentailly applies to all African-Americans.

  2. While rare it is in no way unheard of for Negroes with no Causcasian ancestry to have light coloured eyes. The admixture of Caucasian genetics will ddoubtles sincrease the odds simply because light colours are so much more prevalent amongst Europeans. If the ancrresty is from Eastern Europe that will increase still further. But European ancestry isn’t essential, just helpful.

Vanessa Williams and Harold Ford, Jr. come immediately to mind. (I assume those aren’t contacts that VW is wearing, as I seem to remember that at least one of her parents also has light colored eyes.)

Most African-Americans have some admixture of European ancestry. In fact, it’s not uncommon for that admixture to be as high as 50%. Given that, it should be of no surprise that some have European looking features, including lighter colored eyes. “Black” in the US is generally defined as anyone who has some detectable African ancestry (sometimes called the one drop rule). Given that standard, I’m sure there are quite a few African-Americans who derive more than 50% of their ancestry from Europe.

It’s funny… I’m watching PBS right now and there is some show about Broadway musicals (“Showboat”?) in which someone is exposed to be passing as White.

Perhaps my experiences are biased. But “rare” is not the word I would use to describe this phenomena.

First off, there’s no way of predicting what skin tone a Colin-Berry child would have. They might have light skin like their father, light brown skin like their mother, or go lighter than dad and darker than mom. So it’s possible the woman the OP encountered is actually biracial, despite looking “pretty black”. Which segues into my next point…

The OP asked specifically about African Americans, and it was African Americans I was referencing in my post. Yeah, the answer changes if you change the population. But if we play around with our operational definitions too much, then we aren’t talking about AAs anymore, are we?

It’s like asking what percentage of white Americans have blond hair, but excluding people descended from Scandanavians to arrive at the answer.

Perhaps 15% or even 10% is too high, but 1% is definitely low based on my experience.

You have missed the point entirely. A child of this couple could be, could very, likely be, paler than I am. Nonetheless the child would be of non bi-racial parentage. It’s not about the ancestry of the woman in the OP, it’s about whether “non bi-racial parentage” has any predictive capacity at all, and I’m guessing it doesn’t.

But I was only ever talking about African Americans as well. I wasn’t “playing around with the populations” any more than you were. The only difference is that rather than subdividing African Americans based on the essentially meaningless "non-biracial parentage I was attempting to use a more subjective standard: 75% recent Negro ancestry. Much easier to define, and such people are almost certain to appear Black.

Not what anyone is suggesting in any way at all. What is it, 25% of “white” Americans have Negro ancestry? So we have two choices. We can include everyone who qualifies under the “one drop” rule encompassing people like Ted Danson. That is hardly likely to answer the OP who I think we can safely assume is using “African-American” to mean Negro. Alternatively we can restrict the discussion of people who are actually “Black”. We have both decided to go with the latter option. Th only difference is how we define the term Black. You are defining it as including any child of a subjectively-identified black couple no matter what the physical appearance or ancestry of the child or parents actually is. I am attempting to define it objectively in a way that our sample includes only people who are “rather black”.

IOW you are just as guilty of excuding Scandinavians as I am. The only difference is that you want to claim that Norwegians aren’t Scandinavian so you can keep them in your sample.

I’m just basing it on the fact that on those rare occassions when I do see a person with dark skin and light eyes it makes an impact. If it were more than a few percent it would be commonplace and cease to be any more noticable than the same eye colours in white people. The fact that the OP had the same reaction to seeing this light eyed black person suggests the same thing.

If 1 in every 10 black people had light coloured eyes s you suggested we would hardly be reacting with such surprise. After all only around 1 in 5 white people have light coloured eyes and that is so commonplace that we don’t even notice it much less start threads about it. That is why I am estimating an incidence of 1 in 100 or less. I honestly wouldn’t be surpised to discover the incidence was as low as 1 in 1000.

I think it really depends on how you’re defining “light colored eyes.” Perhaps monstro is counting light brown, amber, and hazel eyes as light colored, and you’re not. 'Cause I see plenty of (apparently) black people around with “light” eyes, but very few with eyes that are actually blue or green.

This is a good point. Another factor to consider is that our experience depends on where we live. I don’t remember the details, but the average amount of European admixture in African-Americans varies by geography in the US. IIRC, it is higher in the north and lower in the south. One might see a higher percentage of Blacks with lighter colored eyes in Boston or Chicago than in Atlanta (although you’d see a higher percentage of Blacks in the general population in Atlanta). In a place like New Orleans, though, one finds lots and lots of so-called Creoles. Most Americans would call them Black, but light colored eyes is pretty common among that group.

Adding to John Mace’s post: I’ve lived in the South most of my adult life, and the most striking instance I’ve seen of a community of people considered Black ,by the social norms of the area, who had remarkably beautiful green eyes, and lighter, curly hair, were the people living in the area west of New Orleans, out in the country. The particular club, Richard’s, is known as ground zero for Zydeco music. That music is an amazing hybrid of many traditions, and the people who play it reflect the very different influence in Southern Louisiana as opposed to the rest of the South.

There is much more Spanish, French (from Caribbean islands as well as Acadian refugees-- “Cajun”), and the port of New Orleans was more isolated from the more staid tradition of the rest of the South, and genetics were more mixed. New Orleans was always the most cosmopolitan European/African mix of people in the South, and it shows well in the green eyes there.

In order for any child to have blue or green eyes, at least two of their four grandparents or g’grandparents (or on back) had to have blue or green eyes. That color of iris is inherited through a recessive allele. While it’s not as simple as BB(brown), Bb(brown), and bb(blue), it still works out fairly regularly.
For instance, paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother both had blue eyes and married brown eyed spouses. All children from both marriages (unless either spouse also had a blue-eyed ancestor) will be brown eyed, with a 50% chance of carrying the recessive blue-eyed allele.

Paternal grandfather’s Bb(brown) son marries maternal grandmother’s Bb(brown) daughter. When they have children, there’s a 25% chance of the baby being BB(brown) homozygous, a 50% chance of a Bb(brown) heterozygous baby, and a 25% chance of a bb(blue) heterozygous baby.

Or it could be that the mother got her blue allele from an Spanish man eight generations previously, and all his descendants had Bb(brown) eyes until the recessive was reinforced by the father, who got his recessive blue allele from a German woman three generations ago, and all her descendants were Bb(brown), until the offspring of mother and father had a 25% chance to grab a double recessive bb(blue) allele.

Eye color is its own discrete set of genes. IIRC, there are three different alleles that make the combination, but what it boils down to is that while brown-eyed parents can have blue-eyed children thanks to the recessive being carried down generation after generation without being seen, blue-eyed parents cannot have a brown-eyed child.

The eye color alleles are not connected to skin color, facial features, or other “racial” marker, and so can be inherited completely independently of them.

What it boils down to, though, is that unless her eye color is a spontaneous mutation (unlikely), your banker has at least two northern/western European ancestors somewhere back in her family tree.

The best example that comes to mind of an African-American with beautiful green eyes is Gary Dourdan of CSI.

I guess that doesn’t contribute to the factual answer, but I post the picture as a public service. :slight_smile:

Well monstro specifically said 10-15% of black people have light coloured eyes, usually hazel or green. IOW even if we include “light brown” or amber then he is still claiming that at least 5 - 8% have either hazel or green eyes. That is astonishingly high when only about 20% of the European population have hazel, green or blue eyes. Once again, how many people find it noteworthy to see a white person with hazel or green eyes? And how many find it noteworthy to see a black person with those eye colours?

And remember, percieved eye colour is strongly associated with the degree of
contrast to skin colour, so a person wth black skin and hazel eyes will never be percieved as having brown eyes. In fact this may be the source of the problem. People are percieving many brown tones as being ‘light’ simply because of a contrast with black skin, whereas exactly the same colour contrasted to white skin would be percieved as a dark colour.

Ultimately I guess there is no factual answer likely here, but I still maintain that very few peopel are surprised to see a white person with hazel eyes, but most people would be surpised at that eye cooour in a black person.

Sorry, but this is absolute nonsense.

It is perfectly possible for a person to have blue eyes without any of their ancestors ever having had blue or green eyes, all the way back to Adam. Never mind the genetics, the logic is quite simple. If your parents don’t need to have blue or green eyes for you to have blue eyes then quite clearly any two people can carry the gene for blue eyes without it being expressed. Therefore your grandparents could have carried it without it being expressed and their grandparents and so forth.

Once again, this is total nonsense.

At least one of the alleles for eye colour is exactly the same as the alelle for skin colour. Not related to, not similar to, exactly the freakin’ same gene locus and exactly the same allelle.

Of course that is just one out of at least 6 genes that controls eye colour, but the gene that controls how much melanin you produce in your skin is exactly the same gene that controls how much melanin you expres in your eye.

Once again, this is total and utter nonsense.

All major human genes are found in sub-Saharan African population. That includes all the major genes for eye colour. It is perfectly possible for people whose ancestors have all been Negroes for the last 100, 000 years to have blue eyes.

The idea that ony people with western European heritage can have blue eyes is absolute nonsense.

Emphasis added.

In that vein, Michael Ealy too.

Can you clarify “African-American” and “Negro”. Does “Negro” mean a pure race and African-American possibly/probably mixed race?

As a counterpoint, I’d like to mention that in watching *CSI *last night (with a nice bottle of Cabernet, btw :slight_smile: ), they made it clear that his character was getting a divorce. A shame, since his on-screen wife was very, very, VERY hot. She only had a few cameos, but she left an impression.