Of Black Sheep & White Flies

Ottobre 31, 2020




The term “black sheep” stems from sheep whose fleece is coloured black rather than the more common white; these sheep stand out in the flock and nobody wants them because their wool can’t be dyed and therefore traditionally considered less valuable. In many languages The Black Sheep is an idiom used to describe an odd or disreputable member of a group, a family, a society. Other members would tolerate them if they have to, but not accept them, unless they’d change.

In most sheep a white fleece is caused by a common dominant gene that switches colour production off. It rarely happens that white sheep give birth to a black lamb (I suppose it has to be a bit of a shock for the ram), what is caused by a recessive gene, let’s say a gene that wanted to prank us (especially the ram). In my opinion it is a very intelligent gene: everybody knows what happens if you run in the mud wearing a white coat!

So, there are a couple of reasons for the non-acceptance of our little new born lamb: one, for the family quarrels (the ram still rages through the flock finding a black male) and two, for the breeder that won’t sell its wool. The family could tolerate the little one, because it feels wrong to kill their child, but they won’t accept it (they don’t know about genetics). The breeder wouldn’t feel wrong to kill it.
How’s our little black lamb to feel about that? Like a human Black Sheep: it will feel the lack of a sense of belonging.

What is it that makes someone a Black Sheep? We could think about the most weird things, but usually you won’t notice them at first sight. It’s not (only) about colours, it’s just about seeing things differently and as we can’t dye the fleece of our little black lamb we can’t change being what we are.

The things that make people a Black Sheep are the very things that make them who they are, and they couldn’t change them even if they wanted to.

So, our little lamb can’t change its parents’ minds by explaining genetics to them as well as we can’t explain to blind people why choose the steep, stony but panoramic footpath instead of the comfy paved, flat road. It will be much easier to identify other black sheep and band together with them to form another (small) flock and finally feel like a swarm of White Flies*!




*White Fly: in the Italian language a White Fly is a person or object with particular characteristics compared to others. The term is used with a specific positive connotation to indicate that the subject is a rare case for its qualities.

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