Saturday, December 4, 2021

Twins, One Black and One White, Spark Discussion About Race and Genetics

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Marcia (left) and Millie

*Marcia and Millie Biggs, both 11, say people are shocked to learn they’re fraternal twins.

Marcia looks more like their English-born mother, and Millie looks more like their Jamaican father. Their story is part of a special issue of National Geographic that explores how race defines, separates, and unites us.

The series runs through 2018 and will include coverage of Muslims, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.

Millie and Marcia say they understand racism and the best way to combat it, but they have never been subjected to racism—just curiosity and surprise that twins could have different skin colors.

“We never worried about it; we just accepted it,” their father, Michael Biggs, says of his daughters’ physical features.

“Racism is where somebody judges you by your color and not by your actual self,” Millie says. Marcia describes racism as “a negative thing because it can hurt people’s feelings.”

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“When they were first born,” mother Amanda recalls, “I would be pushing them in the pram, and people would look at me and then look at my one daughter and then look at my other daughter. And then I’d get asked the question: ‘Are they twins?’”


“‘But one’s white and one’s black.’”

“Yes. It’s genes.”

Michael says he sees a clear family resemblance in his twin daughters, “They both have my nose.”

As noted in The Race issue:

“Fraternal twins account for about one in 100 births. When a biracial couple has fraternal twins, the traits that emerge in each child depend on numerous variables, including “where the parents’ ancestors are from and complex pigment genetics,” says Martin, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

And research on skin color is further complicated by a history of “study biases that mean we know more about what makes lighter skin light than what makes darker skin dark,” she says.

In genetic terms, skin color “is not a binary trait” with only two possibilities, Martin notes. “It’s a quantitative trait, and everyone has some gradient on this spectrum.”

The report also notes how modern science confirms “that the visible differences between peoples are accidents of history”—the result of mutations, migrations, natural selection, the isolation of some populations, and interbreeding among others, writes science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. They are not racial differences because the very concept of race—to quote DNA-sequencing pioneer Craig Venter—“has no genetic or scientific basis.”

“When people see us, they think that we’re just best friends,” Marcia says. “When they learn that we’re twins, they’re kind of shocked because one’s black and one’s white.”

When the twins are asked about their differences: “Millie likes things that are girlie. She likes pink and all of that,” Marcia says. “I don’t like the color pink; I’m a tomboy. People are made how they are.”

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.



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