What Makes a Mixed Race Twin White or Black?

Lucy Wallis, BBC, October 4, 2011

Genetically a mixed race and European couple, who are expecting twins, have about a one in 500 chance that the babies will have different skin colours. Fifty years ago these twin births were almost unheard of, but with the number of interracial relationships increasing, so too are the number of cases.

Around 12,000 sets of twins are born each year in Britain, but only a few are born with a very different skin colour to each other.

“When I think of the reality, I’m like ‘that’s my daughter there and she’s got a totally different skin tone,’ and it’s just really bizarre that I created her,” says Shirley Wales, who gave birth to non-identical twins.

Her son Leo has black skin and her daughter Hope, has white skin.

Shirley, who lives in West Yorkshire, is mixed race and the father of her twins is white. She describes her daughter as the “double” of her father, but is adamant that she should not forget her mixed race heritage.

“Her skin tone is white,” she says, “but she is mixed race, and if I were to ever fill out a form, as much as she is white, it’s ‘no my daughter is mixed race,’ because I want her to be proud.”

Gene variants

In order to discover how this genetic phenomenon occurred, Shirley took a DNA test to find out more about her own genetic profile.

She was adopted when she was four years old, and her birth mother is Afro-Caribbean and her British birth father was white. Her DNA tests revealed that, genetically, she was exactly 50% African and 50% European.

This is very unusual, and the results suggested that Shirley’s mother had pure African roots, and that her ancestors must have moved from Africa to the Caribbean quite recently.

On average Afro-Caribbean people are around one fifth European in their DNA, due to the history of mixed race births dating from the 17th Century and British colonialism in the Caribbean.

Dr Jim Wilson, a population geneticist at the University of Edinburgh, who analysed Shirley’s test results, claims the difference in the skin colour of Shirley’s twins can be attributed to her ancestry and the chance inheritance of different gene variants that Shirley carries.

“Our skin colour is determined by a number of gene variants–at least 20 variants, I would say, probably quite a few more than that,” says Dr Wilson.

“Some of these we know, and some of them we don’t yet know, and at each of these genes, that are influencing the colour of our skin, there tends to be two or more variants. One of which is producing a darker skin tone, and one of which is producing a lighter skin tone.”

These gene variants control the amount of melanin or pigment produced in the skin. However the particular genes that a child inherits from their parents and ancestors is actually a chance process.

“I think of it as a deck of cards,” says Dr Wilson. “Imagine you are at the casino and you have been dealt a hand of cards, some will be black, and some red. [Shirley] happened, by chance, to have passed more of the European skin colour variants, almost all of them, on to Hope, whereas more of the African ones, just by chance, on to Leo.”

According to Dr Wilson, genetically a mixed race and European couple, who are expecting twins, have about a one in 500 chance that they are of different skin colours. This chance only applies to non-identical twins, because they are conceived from two eggs fertilised by two sperm.

As in a painter’s palette, in the skin the presence of pigment dominates the absence of pigment, so the fact that Hope is white is very unusual.

Shirley’s DNA test results also showed that she carries the gene for red hair, so there is the chance that Hope could be a red-head when she grows up.


As well as the genetic differences, there are emotional and psychological factors to also consider.

Twelve-year-old Moesha from Glasgow struggles to fit in. She is white and her twin sister, Ebony and mother Stacey are black.

“I wish I was more like my mum,” she says, “because she’s a nice colour and I want to be the same colour as her.”

Stacey feels that her daughter’s difference in skin colour has had an affect on her self-esteem and body image.

“Moesha’s got no confidence whatsoever, it’s definitely all front,” she says. “Ebony is very, very self-assured. What you see is what you get. Moesha puts on this act for everybody. Moesha is just that bit more vulnerable. She tries to fit in but I don’t think she knows where she fits in.”

Moesha was bullied at primary school for not being the same colour as her mother, which led to her feeling a sense of distinction from her family.

“She’s said it before, ‘I’m not part of this family, I’m not the same colour,'” says Stacey, “and I just tell her, ‘you take your colouring from your dad.'”

‘We’re just brothers’

One in every 10 children in Britain is mixed race and this number is increasing all the time. The likelihood is that black and white twins could become more commonplace in society and not such a rarity.

“Social attitudes will evolve as this phenomenon increases,” says Dr Wilson.

Twin brothers, Thomas and Wesley Charnock, 29, from Manchester have been subjected to racism in their life because of their different skin tones.

Thomas, a naval airman, says his brother Wesley, who is white, has found it harder to deal with racist remarks, because people do not physically notice his mixed race parentage:

“It’s like a hidden thing for him,” says Thomas. “If someone was to look at him walking down the street, they wouldn’t realise his mum was black and he has this African heritage. That’s in my opinion why he gets more het up about it.”

Wesley, an HGV driver, says that such racist comments are just “small mindedness”.

“We’re just brothers at the end of the day,” he says, “and we don’t think of ourselves as any different to anyone else.”


Leo and Hope


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25 Responses to “What Makes a Mixed Race Twin White or Black?” Subscribe

  1. McGillicuddy October 5, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    Whoah, whoah, whoah, we all know that people do not necessarily look like their siblings, and that their outward appearance does not always betray their origins; the real story here is that 1 in 10 children in Britain is of mixed race. In the United States, a much more racially diverse country, less than one in twenty newborns is of mixed race, and a third of those have two non-white parents. I don’t know the exact mix of the newborn mixed in Britain, but if even seventy percent of them involve a white, the white miscegenation rate in Britain is three times what it is in the United States. And thats Britain as whole, what is the rate in England!?

    I’m not a fatalist at all, but even I must admit that the hour is late in the ancient land of our ancestors.

  2. Flaxen-headed Strumpet October 5, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    And what about the posssiblity of paternal twins having two different fathers–just like a litter of cats??

  3. sbuffalonative October 5, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    It would appear that our genes put up a valiant effort to stay segregated.

    As for being black and white. Although it’s difficult to determine from the picture, the above photo seems to show a dark baby and a lighter baby. I’m sure as the ‘white’ baby gets older, her non-white features will be more prominent.

  4. Question Diversity October 5, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    2: Heteropaternal superfecundation. This isn’t what is happening here, but it’s still a worthy discussion. What FHS is talking about is fraternal twin births where each baby has a different father. It is supposedly rare in human beings, however, I sometimes wonder. I think it’s more common in blacks in whites, because blacks two-egg twin more often than whites and are more promiscuous than whites. As an aside, the sex with two different men can be as far apart as 24 hours and the twins be of different fathers.

  5. Anonymous October 5, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Twin studies: neutral fact when they demonstrate what you want, evil lies when they demonstrate what you don’t want.

  6. Jose October 5, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    I love how the DNA test determined that the woman was exactly 50% black and 50% white, yet at the same time, liberals argue that race is a social construct with no genetic basis.

  7. Tim in Indiana October 5, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

    Okay, here comes the psychobabble.

    Stacey feels that her daughter’s difference in skin colour has had an affect on her self-esteem and body image.

    “Moesha’s got no confidence whatsoever, it’s definitely all front,”

    Yeah, I’m sure it has nothing to do with you telling her she has no confidence. And naming the black child Ebony is a great way to smooth over racial differences.

  8. Periapsis October 5, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    I bet these twins’ mother had unprotected sex with two or more men on the same day, and got knocked up by two men. It can happen, and a very few white women have had twins where one was white, one was mulatto. Unless someone shows me DNA test results that show these kids have the same father, I think the nother of these twins has all the sexual restraint and morality of an alley cat in heat.

  9. honest to goodness race-mixer October 6, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    My mixed race son came out looking white. His black mother said to me before my seeing the newborn, “he’s so white, it’s scary”. Now a preteen he looks what he is, mixed/half white. He behaves like a typical white kid but of course identifies as black. He’s also constantly being ‘uplifted’ about the black experience in school.

  10. Anonymous October 6, 2011 at 1:32 am #

    When two whites get together they have 100% chance of making a 100% noble golden child. Don’t leave it to chance.

  11. Anonymous October 6, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    Fraternal twins? The one on the left does not look black either and did they take a DNA test to see if they were mixed with another kid at birth?

    Maybe parent was fair skinned Scandinavian and the other southern Mediterean European?

  12. Legal Eagle October 6, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    It’s a trick question. The right answer: Regardless of phenotype, both are genetically mixed. Both may one day pollute another White genetic line. This is why the one-drop rule was implemented back when our society was civilized. This is why the rule is still necessary today.

  13. Anonymous October 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    “…His black mother said to me before my seeing the newborn, “he’s so white, it’s scary”. He’s also constantly being ‘uplifted’ about the black experience in school…”

    Why wouldn’t he be? His daddy was…


  14. Anonymous October 6, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    9 — honest to goodness race-mixer wrote at 12:32 AM on October 6:

    My mixed race son came out looking white. His black mother said to me before my seeing the newborn, “he’s so white, it’s scary”. Now a preteen he looks what he is, mixed/half white. He behaves like a typical white kid but of course identifies as black. He’s also constantly being ‘uplifted’ about the black experience in school.


    What are you seeking here? A kudos to you for race mixing and having a mulatto son and black wife? You won’t get it from the majority of us..or are you “shoving it in our faces” as to you being a race traitor and loving it?

    Oh, and of COURSE, he identifies as a black and LOVES the black experience in school….don’t you have the courage as a White man to instill some of your “whiteness” into the kid? Oh, I forgot you have no whiteness left since you agreed willingly to enter such a relationship.

  15. Anonymous October 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    For centuries people wondered if it were possible to have twins by 2 different Fathers.

    In 18th century Massachuetts the problem was solved. A fair blueyed White woman gave birth to twins. One was a fair blue eyed White. The other was a dark skinned black. When asked, the woman said that she had 2 lovers, one White and the other black and had relations with both.

  16. David Ashton October 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    Race crossing leads to a hodge-podge of genetic characters. It can create problems of phenotype self-identity for “mixed” children in various ways. This is one reason why “left-wing” social workers in Britain have tried to place black children with black-only foster guardians or adopter parents despite their limited numbers. As a teacher of girls of diverse racial heritage some time ago I found blacker and more prognathous girls acutely conscious of their aesthetic distance from attractive whites. Some admitted feeling more comfortable among their own, but would not welcome a “you, get out of Britain now” [actual quote] government attitude. Black females are not over the moon about their own men going with blondes. Sad really.

    The long-term PC “answer” is to promote a polychromatic society

    as the goal and then the norm, but even then there would be ethnic clashes. The current BBC TV “Mixed Britannia” series presenter George Alagiah is quoted (Radio Times, October 8) suggesting that “Asians, with their own strong distinctive culture, are more wary of marrying out because they fear that this culture won’t be passed down in a mixed-race relationship and will ultimately be lost”.

    The same could be said of White English culture, and once was!

  17. Anonymous October 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    I can’t for the very life of me understand why anyone would marry outside of their race, ethnicity and culture.

  18. Browser October 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    To say it once again: Not everything is about skin or color!

    How does the child LOOK? What are her features? How is her hair? (And, yes, how does she behave?)

    It takes more than skin to determine race.

  19. honest to goodness race-mixer October 6, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    “What are you seeking here? A kudos to you for race mixing and having a mulatto son and black wife”?

    Just telling the truth. Perhaps we can draw strength from the sharing.

  20. BritishActivism October 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    I just thought I would chime in and let you good folks in the United States know that there is currently a BBC driven mixed-race and race mixing propaganda drive being put over on a ‘season’ of TV, radio, magazines.

    I heard a (one-sided) ‘debate’ or ‘feature’ about “Mixed Race Britain” on BBC Radio 2 this week on the Jeremy Vine show, and tonight was the first part of a three-part (hour-long each) documentary series on being mixed race in Britain….hosted by, well, somebody who is not fully ethnically British. So you should know what to expect.

    There will probably be no ‘other side’ presented – apart from the one they of course inform us of when it comes to what the objections supposedly were, such as a perceived ‘loss of manhood’ and ‘competition from immigrants’ who were seen to be taking their jobs and their women folk.

    We were told that (‘thankfully’) our society is much more “open-minded” today and how ‘brave’ these white women were as the ‘pioneers of Mixed Race Britain’ (against such hostile objections at the time). I am afraid I am not joking.

    I don’t know if you have access to the iplayer…..but you will catch the Jeremy Vine show for the next 5 days and no doubt the TV documentary will feature on iplayer for BBC2 channel.

    I think there will continue to be news items, interviews, random articles and such throughout the whole BBC network randomly between the main shows advertised as part of the season.

    To spoil the ending of the first installment for those of you who may see it, it ends with the presenter pointing out how one vigorous opposer of “mixed relationships” (featured in the documentary from the pre-war era) went on to renounce his views after he saw the ‘horrors of Nazi Germany’ – and that his change of views would mean he would have more accepted his great granddaughter – who has just married a half-Jamaican.

    If you fancy some self-torture, being gloated at, etc, why not tune in to all the features that will no doubt run in this ‘Mixed Race Britain’ series?!

    Maybe the BBC will pose some negative sides to this phenomina allegedly being so rampant (and normalised) – but at this point in time, knowing the BBC, I will not hold my breath.

  21. Anonymous October 6, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    19 — honest to goodness race-mixer wrote at 5:24 PM on October 6:

    “What are you seeking here? A kudos to you for race mixing and having a mulatto son and black wife”?

    Just telling the truth. Perhaps we can draw strength from the sharing.


    Take your share and leave.

    “Strength” from a race mixer who loves to “share” with us so we can all be one big happy family? Perhaps NOT.

    Keep your “truth” to yourself or go to those race mixing sites which I am positive is where you belong and started from and “share” with them.

  22. Anonymous October 6, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    9 — honest to goodness race-mixer wrote at 12:32 AM on October 6:

    My mixed race son came out looking white.


    Have you nor your wife ever seen “Baby Story” on TLC? ALL newborn black babies (even from two BLACK parents) are WHITE skinned at birth! But their features (nose, mouth) are all black features, btw….

  23. John Bell October 6, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    I am one of those “lucky” enough to be “enjoying” the BBCs season long celebration and promotion of race mixing. No doubt the purpose is to persuade any remaining doubters that resistance is futile and that they should just relax and enjoy the diversity.

    For those who don’t know, the BBC is funded by a special tax paid by all who own a television, so we pay for our own destruction.

    The figure of one in ten children being mixed race is certainly wrong. The rate at which the numbers of mixed race people is increasing suggests that an average of around 6% of births were mixed race between between 2001 and 2009, and by no means all of those will have involved a white British partner. The BBC has also given two further figures which are difficult to reconcile:-

    1/ that according to the children’s own parents 3% of under sixteens are mixed race but, 2/ that 9% of children live with parents of different races (that, no doubt, is where the “one in ten” comes from). What this means, I suspect, is that it includes children living in step families and adopted children as well as mixed race children.

    Anyway, whatever the real figures may be, the picture is grim. Just remember, race mixing is genocide!

  24. Snowhitey October 7, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    “What Makes a Mixed Race Twin White or Black?”

    You mean white-colored or black-colored? Because they are neither white nor black. And no amount of propaganda will change that. The propaganda only fools the dummies around us realists.

  25. taylor October 10, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    I too have the black and white twins. I also have two other children and one the kids stated he like one better than the other and I asked him why and I thought his response was going to be something like “because he doesn’t cry as much as the other” but no he actually said he like him better because he is white” I was so shocked tears came to my eyes and to my son dont you ever say that again thats not no. So I now afraid one is gonna get treated different then the other because one there skin color.