Everyone remembers those twins from Rock Hill, S.C., who gave birth on the same day, right?
Zaakira Mitchell gave birth to a healthy boy and her sister, Shaakira White, delivered twins–a girl and a boy. All three babies are 2 months old now. When news of their miraculous deliveries hit their small town, local newspapers and television crews swarmed down on their hospital room, making a primetime event out of what is normally a private, intimate moment between mother and child.
National media outlets, including NewsOne, also took interest in their incredible story.
Though, the misinformation regarding the circumstances behind Zaakira and Shaakira’s births and racially-charged assumptions about these 20-year-old women that followed made both of them shake their heads.
And, in some cases, cringe.
I caught up with the twin mothers via Facebook and they both agreed to update NewsOne on their newborns’ health and clear up the nonsense and rumors people have heard–and made up–about their pregnancies.
One allegation was that they had the same “baby’s daddy” and that their newborns were “welfare babies.” Many of the abusive, racist and misinformed comments appeared on numerous websites across the web. While Shaakira was too shaken to engage those commenters, Zaakira took them head on.
“I did comment on one of the websites and I was like ‘everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but do not state your opinion as fact because that’s how a lot of rumors get started. And no, we do not have the same baby daddy,’” Zaakira told me, chuckling over the ridiculousness of the ignorant comment. “And some people thought (me and my sister’s births) was nasty and I was shocked because that wasn’t even the moral of the story. It was suppose to be a fun day full of positivity. So when you read stuff like that, it kind of brings your spirit down a little but I just took it with a grain of salt.”
Zaakira says that some commenters started a conspiracy theory that, because her sister was wearing four bracelets on her wrist, she actually had triplets or that her birth was set up. But, in reality, two of those bracelets identified the twins, one identified Shaarika, and other was for allergies. It is a standard hospital procedure to ensure security for the mother and newborn.
Shaakira, however, took the negative comments a bit more personally and was very upset by the negative online comments–especially the baby’s daddy ones. “I know there are some people out there that are in situations like that,” she said via text message. “But to assume something like that about someone you don’t even know is disgusting.”
Another point to add: Neither Zaakira nor Shaakira has a “baby daddy.”
Shaakira, who is attends the University of South Carolina in Columbia, is engaged to the father of her twins. Another fact for all of the welfare wizards out there: The husband-to-be is also employed. He, however, declined to be interviewed for this story and the couple asked that their photos not be published.
Watch television report on the twins’ deliveries below
Zaakira’s husband of two years, Caleb Mitchell, on the other hand, was more than happy to speak to me. He said that he, like his wife, was shocked by some of the negative reactions their story got. Many of them were sent directly to him via social media.
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“The messages were either asking me a lot of personal questions or passing judgment based on the fact that I’m Black,” Caleb said. “A lot of White Americans inboxed me on Facebook making statements such as ‘I bet you and your family are on welfare’ or ‘I hope you two are married because, if your not, you’re full of sin.’ Some even went as far as using the N-word.”
But, on the most part, the 24-year-old college student and optometry doctor’s assistant said the reception he got from the birth of his first son was very positive. “When I went back to work, I was welcomed back warmly by my co workers,” he told me. “The staff there made me feel so great when I came back after three days of leave. They even put my son’s picture up on the board for everyone to see.”
But the picture that should have been circulating around the web was that of Caleb and Shaakira’s fiance standing with the mother of their children and their newborns.
Caleb, like, Shaakira’s fiance, stood behind his spouse when the cameras were rolling. Both men OK’d reporters to include their faces in their footage but were surprised to see themselves cropped out of the photos and video footage published across the web and on television.
But, as a reporter, I do not blame the people on the ground for the omission. Journalists are trained to narrow the scope of any story to the main event. In this case, it was about the Zaakira and Shaakira’s pregnancy–not the men who stood by their side.
Moreover, our profession is based on how quickly we can summarize a story and have it ready for the 12 p.m. or 5 p.m. newscast, if you are in the television business. Or, if you are working in newspaper profession, typing up the story fast enough for the evening press is top priority.
There is little time to consider how our stories will be received by diverse audiences.
So, I do not fault any of the mainstream local or national news outlets for cropping the men out of their pictures and footage. They cannot be blamed for the ignorant “baby’s daddy” commentary that follow their reports.
That said, I still believe the fathers should have been in the photos and video if they agreed it was OK.
However, Black media organizations have a special commitment to stories like Zaakira and Shaakira’s. We know how our men are criticized and researched for being absent in their children’s lives. Therefore, it is imperative that we make sure they are recognized for being active fathers–especially during their children’s births.
If mainstream outlets overlooked the fact that the Caleb and Shaakira’s fiancee were there to celebrate new additions to a stable family, Black media should have filled the gap. I’m not sure that we, at least collectively, did in this case.
It was one of the thoughts that troubled Zaakira most when I spoke with her this weekend. What upset her most was that many of the people making the ignorant remarks were people who shared their skin tone. And she says some of the media organizations that added a negative spin on their stories were also African-America.
“We’re all Black,” Zaakira said. “Why do we have to put each other down like that?”
But, despite the negative commentary, the twins don’t regret allowing cameras into the delivery room to help them share the joy of their incredible deliveries with the world
“It was such a beautiful and exciting highlight in our lives that was truly unexpected and half of the world was excited right along with us,” Shaakira said.