All I want is peace and love on this planet / Ain't how that god planned it?
February 28, 2006 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Black man, white woman, black baby...? So the song goes, but when two of those babies got together as adults, the already shaky formula of racial outcomes was shown to be fallacious by a million-to-one event: the birth of black and white twins. An interesting aside of a media event, to be sure... but underneath the surface lurks an interesting subversion of the intuitive basis of race itself. What race is anyone? Then again, are you sure? I ask because it's amazing how not sure you can be.
posted by illovich (47 comments total)
 
....hmmmm. I guess I should have used <br> instead of <p> tags. Sorry about that, there weren't such gulfs of space when I previewed the thread, or at least they weren't so crazy.
posted by illovich at 11:34 AM on February 28, 2006


Have they ruled out the possibility that the children have two different fathers? The article doesn't say whether they've tested for that. That's where I'd put my money.

Cute picture, though.
posted by alms at 11:36 AM on February 28, 2006


illovich: "....hmmmm. I guess I should have used <br> instead of <p> tags. Sorry about that, there weren't such gulfs of space when I previewed the thread, or at least they weren't so crazy."

Use neither. Metafilter handles linebreaks for you.

posted by Plutor at 11:39 AM on February 28, 2006


That has been known to happen, alms, but it's awfully rare.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:44 AM on February 28, 2006


Wow, Sandra Laing's story is amazing.
posted by skallas at 11:45 AM on February 28, 2006


Woah, that's crazy. Skin color, eye color, and hair color are controlled by lots of different genes, and usually the ones that make a person "white" are recessive. The more "dark hair" genes you have, the darker your hair, and so on.

So in order for these two to have a white baby, the kid would have had to have gotten all of the recessive alleles, so 1/4th times all the genes that control for this. So if there were 10 different genes controlling for this, that would be a in a million chance.

Of course, this highschool level bio, real genetics are much, much more complicated.

If a couple were having twins, there would be a 99.9999% chance of having two mixed babies (all but one in a million) a one in a million chance of having one white baby. In fact, the chances of having one black baby and one white baby are about the same as having one white baby by itself.

On the other hand, for these two to have two white babies (based on the above figures) would be super-unlikely.

I think this kind of thing would be much more likely the one woman having twins with two different men at the same time. Even if she had done it with another white man, her child would still be unlikely to come out with blond hair and blue eyes anyway.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 AM on February 28, 2006


Kylie, 17.

classic.
posted by Frasermoo at 11:47 AM on February 28, 2006


I guess this could be another case of having two fathers as well.
posted by delmoi at 11:50 AM on February 28, 2006


To clarify: both of the parents are biracial.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:56 AM on February 28, 2006


It's like a real-life Benetton commercial
posted by bullitt 5 at 11:57 AM on February 28, 2006


Frasermoo: I wouldn't call I Should be So Lucky a classic.
posted by ?! at 12:00 PM on February 28, 2006


Have they ruled out the possibility that the children have two different fathers? The article doesn't say whether they've tested for that. That's where I'd put my money.

Is it biologically possible to be pregnant with two different men's babies at the same time? Wouldn't the first pregnancy preclude the possibility of a second?

*did very poorly in high school biology*
posted by elquien at 12:05 PM on February 28, 2006


At first I read the baby's name Kian (K-i-a-n) as Klan (K-l-a-n) which lent the story a nice surrealistic touch for about two seconds.
posted by scratch at 12:07 PM on February 28, 2006


The black daughter's white parents were members of a racist political party? As Douglas Adams would say, this either proves god exists, or definitively proves god doesn't exist.
posted by uni verse at 12:08 PM on February 28, 2006


Was this prophesied?
posted by shoepal at 12:09 PM on February 28, 2006


THis will be an interesting experiment in how race affects a life.
posted by mert at 12:16 PM on February 28, 2006


Frasermoo: I wouldn't call I Should be So Lucky a classic.

Heretic.
posted by cillit bang at 12:17 PM on February 28, 2006


Are they really 19 and 17? They don't look it...
posted by Orange Goblin at 12:19 PM on February 28, 2006


alms: imagine if those were your children and spouse. I don't think I'd allow a news release like this unless I was damned sure.

This isn't one of the 'Who's the Daddy' days on Maury.
posted by arialblack at 12:19 PM on February 28, 2006


This sounds like something out of fiction, I know, but I saw a program a few years ago on TLC about a mother giving birth to twins, one black and one white.

Both parents were white. She had undergone artificial insemination and the laboratory that performed the procedure hadn't cleaned up the equipment from before properly (!), and the husband's (or donor's) sperm had been combined with that of a black man, who had undertaken the same procedure earlier. Apparently artificial insemination, combined with fertility treatments greatly increases the chances of conceiving twings.

I remember they were Dutch and the twin's names were Kuhn and Thuhn. Google gave me nothing, so I'm probably spelling the names wrong.
posted by dobie at 12:25 PM on February 28, 2006


Is it biologically possible to be pregnant with two different men's babies at the same time? Wouldn't the first pregnancy preclude the possibility of a second?

If two eggs are released at the same time (which is what causes non-identical twins), and he semen of two men was in the vagina at the same time...
posted by delmoi at 12:26 PM on February 28, 2006


Well, regardless, cute kids in the first link. Though I imagine they'll get tired of explaining of why their twin sister is a different colour...
posted by GuyZero at 12:29 PM on February 28, 2006


If two eggs are released at the same time (which is what causes non-identical twins), and he semen of two men was in the vagina at the same time... - delmoi

Come on now... it wouldn't have to be at the same time. But fairly close proximity.
posted by raedyn at 12:34 PM on February 28, 2006


See, if there were actual races of Homo sapiens, you'd get this a lot more often--by which I mean, always.
posted by jefgodesky at 12:34 PM on February 28, 2006


Actually two or more partners within 48 hours would do nicely.
posted by Gungho at 12:43 PM on February 28, 2006


[fixed fpp formatting]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:46 PM on February 28, 2006


The little blonde twin doesn't much look like either one of her teenage parents.
posted by obloquy at 12:48 PM on February 28, 2006


I know my Dad was "tri-racial", I put "other" or "mixed" on forms, and if someone asks I'll often smile and lie: "Jewish." (Except I told the 1990 Census I was Asian/Pacific Islander and scribbled next to it "Samoan.")

But under the old 1/32 one-drop rule, which was law in many Southern states when I was born, at 1/16 I'm legally a Negro -- which black people who look black think is hilarious (on those few rare times it's come up).

But very few people have said "Funny, you don't look Jewish."
posted by davy at 12:52 PM on February 28, 2006


By a biological quirk, the pigment of an unknown black ancestor had lain dormant for generations and manifested in Sandra.

My son (now age 20) was born with Waardenburg syndrome. This is very rare and affects only people of German descent. My grandfather was indeed a full blooded German, only coming to America in the mid 1940's. However no matter how far in our known family tree we went back we could not find any carrier that had the symptoms of Waardenburg.

Whenever two people have a child just about anything can happen no matter how sure you think everything has been checked out.
posted by Tablecrumbs at 12:52 PM on February 28, 2006


If Anne Geddes gets ahold of Remee and Kian, she'll probably pose them atop a giant black & white cookie...
posted by Lord Kinbote at 12:53 PM on February 28, 2006


dobie, the Dutch twins story is here. (First hit on Google for dutch twins black white.) Their names are pretty hard to spell for Anglos: Koen and Tuen.
posted by rosemere at 1:01 PM on February 28, 2006


Regarding the "black man, white woman, black baby..." quotation: Though I am also mostly familiar with it from the Public Enemy song, I am pretty confident that it was sampled from a Dick Gregory stand-up routine.
posted by Dr. Wu at 1:15 PM on February 28, 2006


Kylie, 17.

classic.


Actually, it says Kylie, 19. Perhaps they've updated the article.

I have non-identical twins, and I can tell you that if you ignore the skin color, hair color and eye color, they look a lot closer to identical than my kids do. It's hard to tell from the small picture, but their facial features seem very similar.

Either way, I hope they grow up to take the lead in some kind of civil rights renaissance.

of course, I'd rather not have to wait that long
posted by davejay at 1:41 PM on February 28, 2006


I'm assuming that they have tested the parentage of the girls (first link), via blood type or some such, and are reasonably sure this isn't a case of an "extra" father. (Up to 15% of fathers of record, in various studies, are not the biological father.)

Anyway, my niece and nephew were "twins", but are sufficiently different that I don't think it's even "fraternal" -- that indeed they're half-siblings. There's no way to prove it, though, since the bio-dad was never identified. So personally, I lean toward the 48-hour explanation (although I think the record is much longer).
posted by dhartung at 1:43 PM on February 28, 2006


Wow, I'd never heard of Sandra Laing before. How is it possible that in 1955 they didn't just assume the mother had had an affair with a black dude?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 1:48 PM on February 28, 2006


I remember reading (probably on the blue) that there are sperm whose job is to protect the, uh, deeper/stronger swimming sperm by defending against, er, foreign sperm that may enter the canal after the initial, uh, delivery. Though, I suppose the defense could be, um, overwhelmed thus resulting in two eggs being fertilized by two sets of sperm.
posted by shoepal at 1:54 PM on February 28, 2006


hdwow: How is it possible that in 1955 they didn't just assume the mother had had an affair with a black dude?


Um, because in post-1948 South Africa miscegenation was a crime (under the 1950 Immorality Act), and that 'assumption' would likely involve prosecution?
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:03 PM on February 28, 2006


Asparagirl : To clarify: both of the parents are biracial.

In case you were clarifying that for the original post, duly noted. however, since I was tying the event to larger Western (and really United States in my case) conceptions of race in general, and using the Public Enemy song as the rope... I figured it would get too obfuscated if I said "biracial man, biracial woman, errr..... quadracial baby??"

And besides, I don't think calling someone biracial sweetens the deal or makes anything more clear. Race is pretty much bullshit (but man is it some serious bullshit), so calling someone biracial is pretty much as meaningless as calling them black or white. I feel like biracial is a PC version of mixed or mulatto, and in the end it doesn't really help anything, because to people who actually hate people for the color of their skin, those two people are black... or more importantly, not white.

But man I'd love to hear the Clayton Bigsby set weigh in on this one. I wonder if it's too late for Chappelle to work it into season 3. =P
posted by illovich at 2:29 PM on February 28, 2006


hdwow: How is it possible that in 1955 they didn't just assume the mother had had an affair with a black dude?


SJ: Um, because in post-1948 South Africa miscegenation was a crime (under the 1950 Immorality Act), and that 'assumption' would likely involve prosecution?


Yeah, I'm wondering why they didn't assume that and prosecute her. To a layman a white woman having a black child might seem pretty incontrovertible evidence of miscegenation.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:34 PM on February 28, 2006


hdwow: RTFA: Blood tests proved she was the biological offspring of Abraham and Sannie.
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:33 PM on February 28, 2006


a quote from one of the articles in the links:

Nevertheless, the two European-looking children will probably switch to self-identifying as Hispanic or even White after high school. There is little to be gained in today’s America, for a young person who looks European, by voluntarily remaining a member of the Black endogamous group.

I found this comment suprising, because in my experience people with black and white ancestry tend to be more likely to identify as black, even when they appear more white. Maybe it was just that it was better to be black in my neighbourhood as a kid (sounds weird, but true), but I notice that Lena Horne (linked off on of the links) chooses to identify as African-American when it is clear that she is as European as she is African.

I don't really care what people identify as - it's their identity after all, and they have a right to choose it. But it does seem to me that the "one-drop" rule imposed by racists has been internalised by many biracial people. I remember hearing an NPR "This American Life" program about a journalist exploring his own family's history - his mother is white and his faher black, but this became a source of stress to their relationship (it was the 60s and 70s, and they lived in an all white town). He was surprised that his white grandparents considered him to be white. He clearly saw himself as black. I just kept wishing I could reach through the radio and say to him -- don't you see? You are black and white - saying that you aren't is pidgeon holing yourself just as much as racists in the past would. Perhaps it was that growing up where he did, he was the "black" kid in town. But at the same time, he did seem to be rejecting the idea that he was as much white as black. I think that's dangerous, because it does give in to a view of race that is strictly categorised.

That said, the genetics of this are fascinating. And beautifully play with our silly human categorisations.
posted by jb at 5:58 PM on February 28, 2006


don't you see? You are black and white

No. There is no black and white. Race is a social construct, and as soon as we stop believing in it, it will be as real as the aether through which light waves propagate in space.
posted by Eamon at 9:39 PM on February 28, 2006


I'm with Eamon myself. At least in what's now the U.S., "race" became a big deal only after "Negro slavery" became an established fact, that is until white people (with no "visible" sub-Saharan African ancestry) stopped being enslaved. After the Norman conquest of Britain, for example, most slaves were Anglo-Saxon; simply put, it was so easy to buy plenty of black slaves who were captured and sold by other Africans that it was no longer "necessary" for Europeans to enslave one another. When you add to the "black = slave" assumption the old rule of "the child follows the status of the mother" then it was no longer necessary to buy more Africans: you could rape your slave and your resulting children would be "black" slaves. (Imagine how convenient parenthood would be if all parents got to enslave their kids!)
posted by davy at 10:19 PM on February 28, 2006


Fascinating FPP illovich, thank you. Extraordinary and poignant story of Sandra Laing. More black and white twins. And twins in utero.
posted by nickyskye at 10:29 PM on February 28, 2006


interesting
posted by Smedleyman at 10:10 AM on March 1, 2006


Blood tests proved she was the biological offspring of Abraham and Sannie

How? A few DNA tests would be enlightening.

Interesting article by Lawrence R. Tenzer - How Do We Inherit Our Skin Color? - argues against the whole concept of 'atavism': In 1972, for example, sociologist Ian Robertson and commentator Phillip Whitten reported that some whites in South Africa still utilize "the genetic throwback" to account for a mulatto birth to white parents. As explained earlier in this chapter, interracial atavism is a genetic impossibility.
posted by raygirvan at 1:08 PM on March 1, 2006


Have they ruled out the possibility that the children have two different fathers?

That would be an exciting new development in twin technology!
posted by Sparx at 1:39 AM on March 2, 2006


« Older Effa Manley, First Female Hall of Famer   |   Exclusive: Dubai ports firm enforces Israel... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments