By Linda Dahlstrom
Some things aren’t always black and white. Then again, sometimes they are – like the twin sons born July 11 to a German couple.
The first baby that was born, Ryan, has light skin and blue eyes. His brother, Leo, is dark-skinned with brown eyes.
"None of us could believe it," the maternity ward's head doctor, Birgit Weber, told one news source. "Both kids have definitely the same father."
Stephan Gerth is German and white. His wife, Florence Addo-Gerth, is from Ghana and has dark skin.
It was “a real surprise,” Gerth told the German newspaper Die Welt, adding that the most important thing to him isn’t color, but that everyone is healthy.
The odds are one in a million, say doctors, but it can happen with fraternal twins due the genetic soup in our backgrounds. Peter Propping, former director of the Institute for Human Genetics at Bonn University, told Die Welt that the black mother may have had some white ancestors, or that the white father may have had black ones. Very occasionally, the roll of the DNA die may cause the baby of biracial parents to inherit only the genetic coding for one color.
Rare though they are, the German twins do have some company. In the past few years, at least three mixed race couples have welcomed twins who were also black and white.
- In 2005, British couple Kylie Hodgson and Remi Horder, both born to mixed-race parents, had twin girls – one who is blond and fair-skinned and one who has dark coloring.
- In 2006, Kerry Richardson, who is of Nigerian and English descent, and her partner, who is white, gave birth to twins who were both born light-skinned. But as they got older, one got darker while the other got lighter.
- Natasha Knight, of Australia, welcomed a blue-eyed blond baby girl and her sister, who has brown hair, eyes and dark skin in 2006. Knight’s older daughter has blond hair, blue eyes and light olive skin. Knight is of Jamaican and English descent; the father is German.
In 1993, another set of black and white twins was born to the Dutch couple, Wilma and Willem Stuart, but it turned out to be a case of an in-vitro mix-up. The parents, who are both Caucasian, were mystified when the twins were born, but fell deeply in love with both of them. However, after about a year, genetic tests revealed that while one of the twins was biologically related to both parents, the other twin was not.
The hospital called it a “deeply regrettable mistake.” It soon became apparent that a device similar to a large eyedropper had been used twice, causing another man’s sperm to be mixed with Willem’s. The couple remembers two other couples in the waiting room the day of the procedure. One of them was black.
Being of different races and coming from different fathers hasn’t stopped the Stuart boys from closely bonding. While the dark-skinned boy did eventually meet the man who was his biological father, the brothers consider themselves full twins. In 2005, they attended a twins festival and proudly won the “Least alike twins” award.”
“For the two boys, being celebrated for their differences finally answered all the questioning looks, nasty teasing, and outright expressions of disbelief they've endured all these years,” Wilma Stuart told Dateline, which has been following the family since 1993.
Stephan Gerth and Florence Addo-Gerth, the parents of the newest set of “black and white” twins, know they’ll face some incredulous stares.
"I imagine sitting in a playground where the other mothers will call me crazy when I tell them the boys are twins," Florence told www.peacefmonline.com.
Like all siblings, their differences are more than skin deep. The twins also have distinctly different personalities, say their parents. Leo, the dark-skinned baby, is quieter; Ryan, his light-skinned brother, is temperamental. "When he's hungry, he's hard to stop,” said the mother.
She says her children were born looking exactly as they should. "God has decided that my children should have different skin colors," she says.