Following the case of Rachel Dolezal, an American civil rights campaigner who was exposed for lying about being Black, many other similar cases have popped up the media. Take Lacey Schwartz, a Black Jew who grew up believing she was white.
“Throughout my life, people have asked me why I look the way I do,” says Lacey Schwartz. “I would tell them that my parents were white, which was true. I wasn’t pretending to be something I wasn’t. I grew up being told, and believing, that I was the nice, white, Jewish daughter of two nice, white, Jewish parents.”
However, Schwartz was far from what she was raised to believe. She has mocha skin, curly hair and full lips. She always wondered why she looked different most of her life, but the truth wasn’t revealed until she was 18 and her mother admitted she had an affair with an African-American man.
Schwartz describes her own childhood, in the countryside near Woodstock in upstate New York, as “solid, comfortable, loving”. Her father, Robert, was an accountant, and her mother, Peggy, owned a wine shop, according to the Telegraph.
“I came from a long line of New York Jews, the great-granddaughter of Eastern European immigrants,” shetold the publication. “We went to the synagogue, bar mitzvahs, and Hebrew school. My family knew who they were, and they defined who I was.”
She recalled other children questioning why she looked different, but she had no explanation to offer. When she brought her questions to her parents her father pulled out a photo album and said she probably gained her looks from his grandfather, who was a tan Sicilian man.
Although a long shot, it became the acceptable excuse in the family, as everyone avoided the elephant in the room. Schwartz also accepted it, as it offered the validation she needed as a child.
“My family had been this bubble, this supposedly perfect unit, so there was no incentive for me to question it. But when my parents split up, it made me question everything: who I was, what I had come from, who my parents were.”
When it was time to go to college she faced a dilemma, what ethnicity to check on application forms. Schwartz chose to leave it blank but submitted a photo with her submission. Sometime later she received an acceptance letter from Georgetown University, which stated she had been accepted as a Black student.
“The moment that Georgetown said, ‘You’re black,’ they gave me the permission to start entertaining the idea of it myself,” she.remarked.
During her years in college, she became active in the African American community and university groups. She was coming to terms with who she was and for once, feeling like she fit in. A university therapist worked with her, helping her gain the confidence to confront her mother with the issue, as reported by the Telegraph.
In Schwartz’s film, her mother tells the audience that she was afraid to talk about it. She wanted it to go away, but the moment of truth had arisen and she now had an obligation to be honest. Her mother, Peggy, fessed up to having an affair with a New York City basketball scout the family knew well.
The revelation shook Schwartz’s world, putting distance between her and her parents. She felt as if she had been duped and when she left for New York City at the age of 23 to pursue a career in film, she decided it was time to meet her father.
Sadly, she did not feel a connection to her biological father or half siblings. Her mother also revealed her biological father had taken interest in her as a child, speculating he was her father, but Peggy refused to let him in.
Schwartz decided to continued her journey to self –discovery by carrying out her documentary “Little White Lie.” The film has not only helped her come to terms with her identity, but it has also repaired her relationship with the father who raised her and pushed her mother to live a more honest and forthright life.