How we should (and shouldn’t) be talking about bi-racial twins who don’t look alike

Lucy and Maria Aylmer are 18-year-old twin sisters who so happen to look completely different — they have different skin colors, and different hair colors and texture. Lucy’s fair complexion, red hair, and blue eyes stand in contrast to her twin’s light brown coloring, curly brown locks, and brown eyes.

The Daily Mail covered their story and if you were entering this topic blindly, you’d think their dramatically differing looks were the strangest thing to happen since the blue-black/white-gold dress incident, but it’s actually pretty normal, so let’s hold off on the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-butter-level hyperbole.

This isn’t the first time bi-racial twins have made the news for appearing to be “different races.” The “black-white twins” headlines always makes me cringe a bit because they’re so sensationalized. These kids aren’t part of some freak show act, and yes, siblings can have different skin color.

For the uninitiated, here’s why this is actually not all that uncommon. The Mail attributes the girl’s differences to “a quirk” in their parents mixed-race heritage (their mother is half Jamaican and their father is White). “A quirk” implies that something peculiar happened in the girls’ genetic makeup. But the very definition of “fraternal twins” is two genetically unique siblings born at the same time. Given the Alymer girls’ Black and White heritage, it’s actually quite normal for siblings of mixed-race families to have different skin tones or hair types. (Hell, it’s normal for an all Black family to have different skin tones and hair types. If you need proof, my grandmother looks more like Maria while her sister looks like Lucy.)

Lucy and Maria have three older siblings who are also a different skin shade than their father, mother, and twin sisters. Lucy shared with the Daily Mail, “Our brothers and sisters have skin which is in-between Maria and I. We are at opposite ends of the spectrum and they are all somewhere in-between. But my grandmother has a very fair English rose complexion, just like mine.”

While the twins themselves call each other “my white twin” and “my black twin” (they obviously both have the right to identify as whatever race they choose), their beautiful heritage is more complicated than that. The girls were each blessed (#blessed) with a mix of Afro-Carribean and European DNA that resulted in their different looks.

So, yes, “The Twins That Everyone Can Tell Apart!” is an awesome headline, but it’s actually not all that weird! Indeed, that’s how fraternal twinning works sometimes.

Now that we’ve gotten that life lesson out of the way, let’s just celebrate how lovely Lucy, Maria, and their family truly are.

Images via World Wide Features/Martin Spaven