Patricia Williams, a 43-year-old mother from Utah, experienced distress after posting beautiful social media pictures of her albino son, Rockwell. Trolls on social media transformed her youngest son’s images into hurtful memes that spread widely. Patricia noticed something unusual about her second child, Redd, when he was two months old in August 2012.
His eyes constantly moved from side to side, and after her husband, Dale Williams, 45, searched online, they discovered that Redd had albinism. Patricia mentioned that the first thing her husband found out was that albinism, a term she had never heard of before and had to look up, was a common feature in infants.
She recalled Dale noticing Redd displaying all the classic signs of albinism – fair skin, white hair, and wandering eyes. Patricia immediately expressed concern, wondering if individuals with albinism typically had red eyes. The couple then took their son to see ophthalmologists and genetic specialists, who diagnosed him with Oculocutaneous Albinism Type One (OCA1). This condition affects one in every 17,000 people worldwide.
The child was born with blue eyes and white hair, and nurses often referred to him as the “baby with the white hair,” but it took some time for his parents to notice anything different about him. Since Patricia, her husband, and their oldest son, Gage, were all blond, having a child with the same blond hue as Redd did not initially raise any concerns for them.
Patricia vividly remembered how Redd’s hair gleamed white in the sunlight, his eyes continued to move even when she attempted to cover them to see if he would redirect them, and they were such a vivid blue that certain lights made them appear red. Despite the signs indicating his uniqueness, Patricia dismissed them, believing that he would eventually outgrow these characteristics. However, when Rockwell was born with the same condition, instead of being embraced by society, he and his brother faced rejection.
Rockwell, born in February 2018, faced the same challenge as his older brother. His baby photos circulated on social media, where some ridiculed his hair color, with one particularly cruel comment joking, “When she gets pregnant by her sugar daddy.” Sadly, Redd had also endured bullying at the playground, where he faced stares and taunts from other children due to his skin color and appearance. In response, Gage became protective of his younger brother.
When Rockwell arrived, their parents were better prepared and more informed about the situation. However, they were dismayed when their younger son’s photos became viral memes. Despite their efforts to plead with everyone who shared the post to remove it, they soon realized they couldn’t control its spread. Ultimately, Dale and his wife, who also had a son named Wolfgang, chose to ignore the cruel jests and focus on supporting their children.
Instead, they’ve become advocates for raising awareness about albinism in hopes of preventing further torment or teasing of children with the condition. Patricia was overwhelmed and tearful when Redd’s albinism was confirmed. She worried about how he would be treated, his future, and how their family dynamics might change with a child who could easily sunburn and potentially face legal blindness. The fashion designer noted that comments and attention regarding Rockwell’s appearance became increasingly common, explaining, “It’s rare to see a baby with white hair, and Rockwell’s hair stands straight up, making it very noticeable.”
The criticism directed at her younger child caught Patricia off guard, and she began to gain more followers as people inquired about her son. Recognizing the need for greater awareness about albinism, Patricia realized she had a unique opportunity to educate others through social media by sharing family photos. Redd underwent laser eye surgery to address his strabismus and transitioned from a private to a public school for the visually impaired. Patricia, who described the surgery as the best decision for her son, advised other parents considering similar procedures that it was a positive step.
She described feeling “sickened” by the realization that Rockwell and Redd would have to navigate a world filled with fear. Without the surgery, Redd would have required an eye patch for months to correct his condition, drawing unwanted attention. Thankfully, as Redd grew older, most of his friends didn’t notice how different he was, allowing him to live a more normalized life.
They were mindful of ensuring he wore a hat, dark sunglasses, and sunscreen when playing outside, but otherwise, they let him be. Rockwell, like his older brother, grew into his appearance over time. On April 28, 2023, Patricia shared an adorable Instagram video of Rockwell dressed as a cowboy for his school’s “Western Day.” As he got older, he received a warmer reception from social media users, with one person commenting, “Adorable,” and another praising him as “Perfect!!”
In August 2022, people got a glimpse of Redd in three different Instagram images as he celebrated his tenth birthday, looking joyful and content. Patricia also posted a video in February 2023 of Rockwell walking with her to school, where he appeared lively and animated with a greenish-yellow tint. His mother disclosed that he had painted himself to look like a zombie!