I took one look at Lacey Schwartz and knew that she was Black (okay. Half-black!) So how was it that for nearly her entire childhood and teenage years she was led to believe she was (only, entirely) White? It sounds astonishing–because it is–and Schwartz was brave enough to place herself as the case study for the documentary film Little White Lie that explores the truth about her once hidden biracial identity.
Schwartz grew up identifying as White as she raised by her White Jewish mother Peggy in Woodstock, NY, a town that averages at being 94% Caucasian. It’s plausible that she was completely out of touch with Black people and “urban” culture due to these circumstances, but in watching the trailer that is a montage of clips from her youth and current life as a 37-year-old post Harvard grad, homegirl couldn’t tell that she was different? Even with all those wild curls? To her credit, she began to feel something was up in her late teens, and the breakthrough came when she was accepted into Georgetown University’s Black Student Alliance–solely based on her admission photo. Years later, after Schwartz had embraced her black side, she returned to Woodstock to investigate with her beloved family members about being kept in the dark about her African-American father. Little White Lie looks to be full of revelatory moments.
Prior to her collegiate years, Schwartz was “passing” and “passing” was a joyless trend towards avoiding the harsh realities of racism that was practiced (a lot) from the 18th century up until the middle of the 20th. For further background information on this, Little White Lie is preceded by the following notable works: the 1929 novel Passing by Nella Larsen, the 1959 old Hollywood classic Imitation of Life, and most recently, the research book A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America by Allyson Hobbs.
Little White Lie is set to air on PBS in 2015.