Skip to main site content.

Social construct

Biracial twin sisters take center stage as National Geographic confronts its own history of racism

By WITW Staff on March 13, 2018

Two “one-in-a-million” biracial twin sisters — one with black skin, the other with white — grace the cover of National Geographic’s upcoming April issue as the magazine attempts to grapple with its problematic history with racism. Marcia and Millie Biggs, 11, appeared virtually identical when they were born in England to Amanda and Michael Biggs.

“The change happened with Millie first. She went darker and darker,” explained Michael, who inherited dark skin from his Jamaican ancestry. As time went by, Millie’s hair and skin became black, while her sister Marcia become pale and blonde. The twins, it turned out, were fraternal twins — non-identical twins that result from the mother releasing two eggs that were fertilized by two different sperm. In other words, the two sisters are as genetically similar to each other as any other pair of sisters — with Marcia inheriting more of her mother’s physical characteristics, and Millie more of her father’s. Personality-wise, however, Amanda says that the twins similarities to their parents are reversed.

“Marcia is a bit of a tomboy. She loves her gymnastics and prefers the color blue,” she said. “But Millie is the princess — she loves pink and all things bling. She’s a bit like her mother in that way.”

Marcia and Millie say they’ve been told they are lying when they explain to people that they are twins.

“Racism is where someone judges you by your color and not by your actual self,” said Millie. “I prefer to be different. You don’t always have to blend in the crowd because if you do you won’t get noticed. It’s better to be you.”

National Geographic’s profile on the twins comes as part of an April issue that has been devoted to race, featuring an editorial written by editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg that acknowledges that the magazine’s coverage had been implicitly and explicitly racist for decades. Goldberg, who is the first woman and first Jewish person to serve as National Geographic’s editor in chief, wrote that the editorial team at the magazine hired University of Virginia Professor John Edwin Mason, a specialist in African photography and history, to analyze the publication’s archives.

“What Mason found in short was that until the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers,” wrote Goldberg. “Meanwhile it pictured ‘natives’ elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages — every type of cliché.”

She continued, “For decades our coverage was racist. To rise above our past we must acknowledge it.”

Below, watch a video produced by National Geographic about how these two twins and the experiences they talk about prove race is merely a social construct.

Read the full story at Yahoo News and USA Today.


Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry sparks nationwide discussion on race

Woman with rare genetic condition is both herself and her twin sister

Girl, 13, who collected thousands of books for young black girls, writes a story of her own