When Georgina Lawton was born in a hospital bed in London in the early 1990s, her White Irish mom and White British father never questioned the dark skin, dark hair and dark brown eyes of their baby girl. They probably decided to hide the true identity of their beloved. Throughout her childhood, Lawton’s parents told her she was White. Anyone who questioned the identity of their dark-skinned girl was told that Lawton’s skin tone and curly hair were due to a ‘throwback gene’ from some distant lineage. Well, that’s what a midwife told the couple.
And that was what Lawton was made to believe for years until she discovered her Irish mom had had an affair with a Black man nine months before she was born and kept it to herself.
“I was adamant I was part of my family because I wanted to belong as a child,” Lawton told Metro. “So, when I found everything out, I was really angry. I smashed plates. I was screaming. I was furious that I had been denied so much knowledge of myself.”
Lawton first discovered the truth about her heritage upon seeing the results of a DNA test while in Nicaragua. Her dad had given her a DNA sample shortly before he died in May 2015. Angry about being denied knowledge of her background and having to answer questions about her family, she had begun traveling to “majority-Black countries” as she tried to deal with her identity issues. The DNA result she got while in Nicaragua showed she was 43% Nigerian.
“Nothing can prepare you for processing that kind of information at work,” Lawton wrote. “I felt like my blood had been sucked from my body with a syringe. Despite it being obvious, I still didn’t want to believe it. Distraught, I phoned the company to ask how reliable the results were. They were sympathetic, but I was told, ‘Almost 100 per cent. You’re not your dad’s’.”
When she called her mom, she denied everything, saying there might be some mistake, Lawton recalled. It was only after a month that her mom finally confessed to her one-night stand with a Black man from Dublin, whom she had met in 1992.
Lawton went through difficult moments following the discovery, she details in her book, Raceless. The fact that she had to fight a race battle and carry the weight of the lie about her mother’s affair really affected her. But the thought of having grown up in a home that did not acknowledge race, a home where she was loved and never lacked anything, made her think twice about her situation and her next course of action.
“When I came back from traveling, I decided to really stick with therapy. I was really lucky that I could afford a Black, female therapist each week, and my mum paid for another therapist, for the pair of us to go and see together.
“My therapist really helped me understand that there was love in my upbringing, and that shouldn’t overshadow this kind of secret. But it took months for me to calm down, it took months for me to be able to reconcile the two elements of my upbringing.
“There was love, but there was also a huge secret that I was carrying on behalf of my parents. That was really tricky.”
Lawton however believes it was her dad who “swallowed” that, and stayed and raised her and showered her with so much love. “The silence was the best thing that happened to me, but also one of the worst.
“And when it all came out, I was so fragmented. I really had to do a lot of work to piece myself back together,” she recalled.
“But, I put myself in my parents’ shoes and I felt like OK, I can remember all the love that we had. I can remember everything that happened in my childhood that was full of joy. Other than this secret, we had a really happy family. And I just had to not lose sight of that.”
Lawton, who now works as an author and journalist, is yet to find her biological father.