“I felt like I couldn’t get married and start a family of my own until I came to grips with who I was…It never occurred to me that I was passing…I actually believed I was white”
In the past few weeks, there’s been a huge conversation about Rachel Dolezal, the white woman passing for black and holding a post as NAACP President in Seattle. Many people couldn’t understand WHY she would live such a humongous lie. What did she find so incredibly appealing about abandoning who she was, a white woman, to live the stressed out existence of being a black woman in America? How long did she think her parents and family would keep her secret and what would they all do when or if the truth finally came out? Needless to say, we now have the answers and Rachel has now been thrust back into the life she was born into – a white woman. I’m positive she is negotiations for a movie as I write.
Enter Lacey Schwartz. Lacey grew up in a Jewish household with a traditional Jewish family in Woodstock, New York.
One day Lacey went to nursery school and this blonde kid was obsessed with her looks and asked to see her gums. When she told her parents what happened, they told her she looked like her Great-Grandfather who was Sicilian. Lacey accepted this reasoning for looking different, even though, she knew she was different. No one wanted to acknowledge the obvious truth and found many ways to justify the “elephant in the room”. Mom has curly hair, my Great-Grandfather was Sicilian. This conversation in her family never happened again.
Lacey never thought about what she looked like high school where she could no longer ignore looking black. For the first time in life she would be in classes with black girls who would periodically stop Lacey in the halls and questioned about what she was. Was she black or white? When she told them she was white, they quickly informed her she had to work to do if she really thought she was white.
Mid-way through her high school experience, her parents were going through a divorce and her high-school boyfriend, Matt, was a bi-racial boy who made her question for the first time if she was dark because of her Sicilian Great-Grandfather? For him it was crystal clear that Lacey’s father was a black man.
When she applied for Georgetown University she decided not to check a box when it asked her ethnicity. Based on a photo she submitted with her app, Georgetown decided Lacey was black and she didn’t correct them. So, Lacey spent her college years “passing” as a black girl. For the first time Lacey belonged, which meant her parents were hiding something from her and she needed to get to the bottom of the secret.
So, Freshman year, Lacey asked her Mom why she looked the way she did? Her mother finally admitted that she had an affair with Rodney Parker and that there was a huge chance her was Lacey’s biological father. Now, what would she do with this new information that she was in fact was bi-racial. In Woodstock, she was still a nice Jewish girl with white Jewish parents.
Keeping her black world and white world segregated, she set out to get to know Rodney Parker. Rodney he introduced Lacey to his other children…totaling seven with three different women. As much as she wanted to, Lacey discovered she felt no connection to Rodney or his side of the family. Then shortly before her 30th birthday, Rodney died. At the funeral she sat with Rodney’s other children in the front row, but Lacey felt out of place. Lacey’s cousins and friends from Woodstock were also in attendance and would now know that she was black.
Discussing this subject of race with her “white”side of the family would prove to be uncomfortable and irritating for them and for Lacey. When she finally has “the talk”with her Dad it’s on camera for this documentary. He seems obviously annoyed when she tells him that she identifies herself with being a “black woman”. Her father sort of dismisses the issue, Lacey and leaves a message telling her he needs space and time to sort this issue our for himself.
The fact is, if Lacey hadn’t discovered that the man her Mom had an affair and that this man was black, she would’ve never known who she was. Isn’t it ironic that her last name is Schwartz which is Jewish for “black”.
Ultimately, like in the movies it all works out in the end. Lacey and her “white” family seem to finally come to grips with this secret pushed into the light. Lacey marries a “black man” and they all celebrate with a Jewish/Black ceremony ended up like most black weeding receptions do..with doing the electric slide united as one.
Little White Lie was particularly fascinating for me because like Lacey there are some members of my family that suffered the same fate she did. It was covered up for years with lies upon lies, but like most lies – the truth always floats to the surface.
Little White Lies is streaming LIVE on NETFLIX.