Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Racial Formulas

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Once again the world is in awe a couple has given birth to twins where one is “white” and the other is “black”.

But for this couple it’s the second time around. 

A few years ago Dean Durrant and Alison Spooner had twin girls.  One daughter has brown skin and dark hair and the other daughter has paler skin and red hair. 

Last month the family had a second set of fraternal twins.  Again, two girls where one is brown and the other is pale.

I’m trying to be surprised as the rest of the world but I’m not really.

Mostly because they are fraternal twins, so the girls don’t share the same gene strand.  Now, for me it would really be news if they were identical twins but one came out black and the other was white because then it would blow what we think we know about DNA and race out of the water. 

But instead what we have is still is just verification of what we know: that children inherit genetic material from their parents.  If the girls weren’t born at the same time would anyone take notice?  No.  But with these girls it was like having a Kidada Jones and Rashida Jones born at the same time.

What I really think is messing people up is what they expect to see when they see children born to people of color.  Oh, you know the formulas; we all go by them.

Black+Black= Black

White+White=White

Asian+Asian=Asian

And then when you mix it up we expect this:

Black + White= Black

White+Asian=Asian

Asian+Black= Black .  No, Asian.  No, maybe black.  But definitely not white.

That is because humans like to put things into boxes and the racially mixed don’t nicely fit.  So when mixed race children or multiracial children come out looking less brown and more white then it gives us pause when it really shouldn’t because the children will inherit whatever genes their parents give them.  Which means sometimes you can take two black looking parents and they can have a white looking child.  And other times, but not often, white looking couples can give birth to black looking children.

Impossible.  I thought so, too, until I heard the story of Sandra Laing.  She was born to two white parents over forty years ago in apartheid South Africa. Her troubles began when the school decided to eject her when they reclassified her as colored.  Rumors that her mother cheated with a black man began even though it was proved that the white man she knew as her father was indeed her biological father.  What complicates things is that many white Afrikaners have black African ancestry.   Laing’s story was the subject of a BBC documentary (shown below), a book, and an upcoming moviestarring Sophie Okonedo.

So is race more complicated or less complicated?  If we define it by what we see with the eye then it will always allude us.  I understand that many people both black and white aren’t ready to get rid of the racial boxes.  It gives many a sense of identity.  So, I am not arguing against the boxes, I would challenge them. Why do they have to be so small?  And who gets to decide who gets put into what racial category anyway?  White people from the 18th century who denied that Africans were even fully human anyway?

I don’t know.  Seems to me its time to punch some holes in those boxes. 

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Written by rentec

6 January, 2009 at 8:00 pm

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