Love is more than skin deep
A chat with Dickson and Cynthia Unoarumhi
Meet London’s remarkable Unoarumhi family—both parents are of typical African appearance with dark skin, eyes and hair, while all three of their children have white skin, blond hair and hazel-green eyes!
Each of the children happens to have inherited a gene for a form of albinism (see What is albinism?) from each parent. When two such genes pair in the offspring, the result is a very low production of the brown-black pigment, melanin. Melanin is found in the skin, eyes and hair of all ‘races’ in various amounts, leading to different expressions of the same basic colour.1
The chances of one parent carrying such a gene are small. The chance of marrying someone carrying the same gene is even more remote. Even then, only one in four of their offspring on average should have albinism. Medical experts have reckoned the odds against three children being born with this genetic combination at around five million to one.
When we spoke to Cynthia and Dickson by phone at their home, we found them to be a delightful Christian couple. Dickson, a computer engineer, handed us over to his wife as he left for work.
Cynthia, a financial administrator, had just been told their ‘world first’ situation would feature in the Guinness Book of Records.
She confirmed that they had experienced racism, especially with the children. Even when she had only her first white child, people would frequently hassle her. She often had to deal with hostility from strangers who assumed that it could not be her own child, and resented it. She said, ‘It got so I didn’t even want to go out anymore, but I’m more used to it all now.’
What is albinism?
This is an inherited condition in which the production of melanin (the brown-black pigment, responsible for ‘suntan’) is impaired.
All groups of humans naturally have melanin in their skin, eyes and hair. It can only happen when each parent carries a copy of a defective gene for melanin production.
We all carry hundreds of such inherited mistakes—mutations. At each generation, genetic information is copied; mutations are copying errors, which are then passed on.
Down the line, when there is another copying error, it is added to that one, and so these mistakes accumulate.
We don’t normally show the mutations we carry, unless we inherit the same mistake from both parents. Thus, in the family shown here, the parents do not themselves have any effects from carrying the albinism gene; the remaining copy of the unaffected gene is able to instruct the body’s chemical factories tO make the pigment as normal.
The skin of those who have albinism is extremely prone to burning and damage from sunlight. There may be associated visual problems, including an intolerance to bright light and astigmatism.
Asked about the worldwide media attention, Cynthia said she believed it was having a good effect. A lot of the locals were now ‘at least trying to believe they really are our own children.’
The Unoarumhis obviously love their children no less than any parent would, despite the children’s skin colour looking different from their own. But then, they have always been puzzled about why anyone would reject or look down upon another human being on the basis of skin colour.
We had sent them articles from Creation, showing how all people are closely related biologically; all have the same skin anatomy under the microscope, all have melanin, etc. Also, articles showing how evolutionism had promoted the idea that the ‘differences’ between people must be substantial, since they are claimed to come from being separated for long periods of time.
We said, ‘If people took the real history in Genesis as the basis for their thinking, racism would have no logical basis, since we are all closely related. In fact, science has now caught up with the Bible; people are so alike genetically, that most scientists now consider the concept of races to be biologically meaningless.’ Cynthia replied, ‘Yes—we speak the same way, we eat the same way, we laugh the same way, we do everything the same way. I don’t understand why there has to be racism, because we are all human beings.’
Both the Unoarumhis grew up in a ‘church’ background in Nigeria, but only became convinced, born-again believers years later. For Cynthia, this was while she was still in Africa. Later, in the U.K., as she told us warmly, ‘I led Dickson to the Lord.’
Neither of them believe that the statistically remarkable event which has catapulted their family to fame was by ‘chance.’ They can already see how God is using the publicity to break down the barriers of racism in their own area. Seeing black and white skin in the one family like this makes it hard to sustain the belief that the differences are other than trivial.
Another interesting point (for those wishing to hold to the ‘superiority’ of white skin) is that here, a change which has destroyed genetic information has caused light skin instead of dark.2
Cynthia said that they were delighted at the positive effect their current situation was having on many. ‘Skin colour doesn’t mean anything, we are all the same in the eyes of God. I’m sure that God is trying to do something here by giving us three, which has never happened before. God is trying to open people’s eyes.’
Dickson and Cynthia want people to know that skin colour means nothing, that we are all the same, just people. And they are convinced that all of us, as Adam’s descendants, have equally rebelled against our holy Creator God. So all need to be saved from His righteous judgment, only (by God’s grace) through faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for sin with His own blood.
The warmth and acceptance they experience in their own church family is, for the Unoarumhis, only a dim foretaste of an eternity in the re-created New Heaven and New Earth, where death and sin (including racism), will be no more.