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Black Parents. White Baby. What Happened?

A blonde, white baby has been born to a black couple.

I’ve heard bits and pieces of the story, but the pictures released to The Sun yesterday are extraordinary. The sweet Nigerian dad swears up and down that it’s his baby; experts agree the baby is not an albino and geneticists are puzzled. Recessive genes can bring ancestral traits to the fore,  but this British/Nigerian couple don’t know of any white ancestors. Even if there were white ancestors on both sides, this radical difference in coloring is hard, if not impossible to explain.

Professor Bryan Sykes, head of Human Genetics at Oxford University and Britain’s leading expert, said, “in mixed race humans, the lighter variant of skin tone may come out in a child – and this can sometimes be startlingly different to the skin of the parents. This might be the case where there is a lot of genetic mixing, as in Afro-Caribbean populations. But in Nigeria there is little mixing.”  He added “The hair is extremely unusual. Even many blonde children don’t have blonde hair like this at birth.”

Caroline Castiglia over at Strollerderby brings up the question of how we define race: “maybe a child who looks white can ‘be’ black? Does it really matter?”

Professor Sykes concludes that “it is … likely that there has been some other mutation that’s happened to produce this coloring. Without further tests, that is, in my opinion, the most rational explanation.”

It must be very strange for the parents who apparently stared at the baby after delivery for a long time, dumbfounded. On some level, however, I feel like this happens to everyone who has a baby. We expect our children to be an obvious melding of two people: dad’s nose, mom’s eyes, etc. But then an entirely new person is born with such a complex blend of influences, trying to parse them seems a little silly.

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