Can white parents have a black baby? Even if the grandparents are white too?

May 11, 2004

Tough question to answer but here's my best shot. It certainly seems possible for two white people to have a black baby even if the baby's grandparents appear white as well. Even though the genetics behind all of this are really poorly understood, there are lots of stories where white parents have black babies. In fact, one such story may become a movie (see the link below).

There are genetic tests that supposedly can tell you what races are in your background. The FBI used one company's test to figure out that a serial killer in Louisiana was black and not white as they had initially thought (see the link below). This helped the FBI redirect their efforts and catch the serial killer.

The science behind these tests is that there are certain sequences of DNA associated with certain races. Over the past 100,000 years or so, people migrated out of Africa in waves and spread out over the world. The waves of migrations left a pattern in their DNA because:

1) Each group that settled in a region from a particular wave was relatively small

2) Each group was isolated from the rest of humanity for a certain amount of time.

Because of this, each group developed their own pattern or profile of DNA changes. Scientists can now sequence the DNA of various racial groups and figure out what changes are found only within a certain racial group. Until recently, the racial groups that could be identified were restricted to Native American, East Asian, European, and sub-Saharan African. Further research has expanded the list of possible ethnic groups.

Hope this helped answer your question. As you can see, your friend's situation is rare but not unique.