A proud mother is sharing her twin boys’ uniqueness with the world after fielding constant disbelief from people that one of the African-American toddlers is really hers—that’s because the boys have different-colored skin and hair.
Dorian Johnson, a clothing retailer from Williamsburg, Virginia, is often faced with questions from curious strangers who assume her albino son, Zavied, is adopted. The little boy’s non-identical twin brother, Zakari, has dark skin and hair, but Zavied has snow-white skin and his hair is a bright golden blond.
Despite their visible differences, however, the twin 2-year-olds share other striking resemblances, but Dorian, 26, fears that strangers’ incredulity is motivated by racism.
Faced with such questions, Dorian admitted that she does get defensive. “[I]t’s everyday racism and I think it’s a form of discrimination,” she explained. “People should not judge how people look and just jump to assumptions.”
The twins were born to Dorian and her partner, 29-year-old Michael Stepney, on Feb. 11, 2018. Zavied’s oculocutaneous albinism—the most common form of the inherited condition that lowers melanin pigmentation in the skin, hair, and irises of the eyes—was diagnosed days later.
For individuals born with albinism, it is believed that if both parents carry the gene for albinism (but neither of them have albinism), there is a one-in-four chance that their baby will inherit it, according to the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation. In the case of Dorian’s twins, as with any set of non-identical twins, albinism was only inherited by one baby.
Dorian admitted crying upon hearing Zavied’s diagnosis for fear that her baby would have to endure a difficult time in the future. She decided then and there that she would have to teach her son to love himself.
But Zavied and Zakari, she said, are happy, healthy toddlers. As they grow, Dorian hopes that her boys continue to thrive in a society that may present obstacles along the way.
“I don’t think people understand albinism properly yet,” she explained, according to The Metro. “I think we need to increase awareness that Black people can be albino too. I see it as a blessing,” she reflected, “and I feel very lucky to be their mom.”
Zavied, Dorian’s affectionately named “golden child,” is already learning about his condition in preparation for one of the toughest crowds of all: the kids at the school. However, Dorian is armed with the most formidable tool of them all—love.
“I want Zavied to know he is special because that will help him in later life,” she explained. “I want him to love himself to the point where he does not care what other people think of him. So long as he loves himself and we love him as a family, that’s all that matters.”
Her toddler’s skin color, she rationalized, does not change who he is as a person. Zavied and Zakari are both African American males and will wear their identities with pride in the future.
“I’m proud to be their mon [sic] because they are rare,” said Dorian, “so I feel very lucky indeed.”
We would love to hear your stories! You can share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org