Little White Lie is a Glimpse Into a Life of Passing
“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”— -Lacey Scwhartz
In the past few weeks, there’s been a major conversation about Rachel Dolezal, the white woman passing for black and holding a post as NAACP President in Seattle. Many couldn’t comprehend WHY she would live such a humongous lie. What did she find so incredibly appealing about abandoning being a white woman, to live the stressed out existence of a black woman in America? How long did she think her parents and family would keep this secret and what would they do when or if the truth finally came out? Needless to say, we now have the answers and Rachel has been thrust back into the life she was born into – a white woman. I’m positive she is in 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 where this blonde kid obsessed with her looks requested to see her gums. When she told her parents, they explained she looked like her Great-Grandfather who was Sicilian.
Lacey accepted this reasoning, even though, she knew 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.
Mid-way through high school experience, her parents, (now divorcing) and her high-school boyfriend, Matt ( who was bi-racial) made her question for the first time her dark skin really was because of her Sicilian Great-Grandfather? For Matt, it was crystal clear that Lacey’s father was a black man.
When applying at Georgetown University, she decided not to check the ethnicity box and based on a photo submitted with her app, Georgetown decided Lacey was black. She didn’t correct them. So, Lacey spent her college years “passing” as a black girl. 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 he 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 later introduced Lacey to his other children…totaling seven with three different women. As much as she wanted to, Lacey discovered there was no emotional connection to Rodney or his family. At Rodney’s funeral, she sat with Rodney’s other children but 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. 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,” dismisses the issue, and leaves a message informing Lacey he needs space to sort this issue out for himself.
The fact is, if Lacey hadn’t discovered that the man her Mom had an affair with was a black man, 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 wedding receptions…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 Lie is streaming on NETFLIX.