Whitney Meyer, the 25-year-old mother of biracial twins born in Quincy, Illinois, calls her newborns “miracle babies” who show the world “why racism shouldn’t exist.”
“They are different colors, but sisters by blood,” Meyer tells PEOPLE. “But we love them the same.”
Meyer is Caucasian and her boyfriend (the father of the twins), Tomas Dean, is African-American. Nine-month-old Kalani inherited her mother’s lighter complexion and blue eyes, while fraternal twin sister Jarani got her father’s darker complexion.
“But in this family, we don’t see color,” says Meyer. “Love is love.”
When the girls were born on April 23, 2016, Meyer and Dean, 23, were “totally surprised” to see the difference in skin color.
“When Kalani came out I thought she (had albinism) because she was all white. I asked my doctors, but they said, ‘Nope!’ And I kept thinking she would get color but she didn’t,” says Meyer. “It’s unusual.”
Meyer says Jarani was born with Mongolian spots (blueish marks that appear on darker-skinned babies) while Kalani didn’t have any.
“It’s rare,” says Meyer.
Indeed, it is a rare occurrence.
“We don’t know how often it happens because not all cases come to our attention,” Dr. Nancy L. Segal, psychology professor and director of the Twin Studies Center at California State University, tells PEOPLE. “I imagine it’s going to happen more frequently now that we have more mixed marriages.”
Segal says skin tone is under the control of “many different genes.”
“It could be one child inherits certain genes from both parents and the other child inherits sets of genes from the other parent. And that explains the different skin tones,” she adds. “It’s just like how ordinary fraternal twins can look completely different from each other. They just inherit different sets of genes-one child gets the lighter ones, the other’s darker.
“The fact that these twins are biracial makes this a very extraordinary case.”
Kalani and Jarani — different in genetic makeup — also have unique personalities.
“Kalani is wild and very energetic, while Jarani just likes to be cuddled!” says Meyer. “Kalani crawls everywhere and gets into everything, but Jarani won’t let you put her down!”
The girls are adored by big brother Talan, 7, who reads to them every night.
“He’s the best big brother,” Meyer says of her son, who is Caucasian and has a different father. “He doesn’t see any difference in the girls, he’s totally colorblind.
“People in this country could learn a lot from my son. He’s so innocent, he doesn’t understand racial tensions, because to him it doesn’t matter, as it shouldn’t matter to anyone else.”
Meyer says she lost another child two years ago, 2-year-old Pravyn, who died in a tragic drowning incident in a babysitter’s pool.
Meyer says the birth of her twin girls, and the incredible support she has received on social media has helped heal her heart.
“It’s heartwarming, the response I’ve gotten to my biracial twins,” she says. “It restores my faith in humanity, at a time when I, when this country, really needs it.”
- with reporting by NICKI WEISENSEE EGAN