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Little White Lie: The Black Girl Who Grew Up Believing She Was White

Avatar • Feb 18, 2016
Lacey Schwartz Family Photo

Lacey Schwartz Family Photo

The title of this documentary — Little White Lie — perfectly encompasses the incredible tale of Lacey Schwartz, born to two white Jewish parents but clearly biracial, who grew up believing she was white. Essentially, her mother had an affair with a black man but never disclosed this to her father who truly believed this was his daughter and just had a darker complexion much like his Italian ancestry. The kicker is, even her mother who really should have known better, from her account, wanted this to be true and so believed it was.

Lacey meets up with her white childhood friends and they reflect upon the idea that they too believed the little white lie despite visually thinking that she was black. Essentially, no one openly questioned that her white mother and white father could have anything other than a biological white child, ergo she was classed as white. She also speaks to her mother who makes a surprising admission that the affair lasted years before and after she was married. Perhaps the more stunning bombshell is that she has never confessed the affair to her now ex-husband and what she has to say about why she didn’t choose to settle down with her long term lover (no spoiler alert — watch the film).

As a juxtaposition, the black people within Lacey’s circle really did not think she was anything other than black. The black girls at her high school wondered how she could claim to be white and did not accept the Italian story no matter which way it was spun. Additionally, when she applied to college (Georgetown), she was admitted into the Black Student Alliance based solely on her appearance in the photograph attached to the application form.

There is also a brief perhaps archetypal mention that as Lacey transitioned into the black community in college, her skin perceived as dark to white people was actually light to black people and also her once unruly curls being perceived as ‘good hair’.

The film takes us on a transformative journey starting with a young Lacey wrestling with her appearance and racial identity to the young woman who eventually becomes brave enough to speak to her non-biological father and tell him that she identifies as a black woman but that does not detract the love she has for him as the father who loved and raised her.

There are a million questions and talking points that this film throws up about identity, race and honesty. I can guarantee that if you watch it, you will definitely be talking about it for a long time to come.

The film is available on iTunes. Check out the trailer below.

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Marcy
Marcy
4 years ago

I have seen this documentary its very powerful indeed. Different levels of pain underlying the betrayal.

Cosita
Cosita
4 years ago

I saw this documentary on PBS. I don’t want to give too much away but the whole situation between the parents and baby daddy is really weird. Not a one time fling. She knew him growing up although not that he was her dad because parents would have him over to dinner and stuff.

LBell
LBell
4 years ago
Reply to  Cosita

I just watched this on Netflix and all I can say is that if there was a way to make race-based mental gymnastics an Olympic event, this woman’s mother would score somewhere in the high 9’s. There has to be some next-level forgiveness going on there that’s beyond my limited comprehension. Also, it speaks to the stigma of blackness that she went from having “bad” hair amongst whites to having “good” hair amongst blacks. As a dark-skinned 4b-hair-having black woman, I am thankful to have been raised to believe that there was nothing wrong with my skin color or my… Read more »

kalexa1
kalexa1
4 years ago
Reply to  LBell

Well said.

Paula
Paula
4 years ago

It’s on Netflix as well, great documentary.

Me
Me
4 years ago

Lacey IS white. She’s also black. She’s equally both, so there’s nothing wrong with calling her white.

MyMommaUse2TellMe
MyMommaUse2TellMe
4 years ago
Reply to  Me

Do you think the same of President Obama as well, or do you just reserve this statement for light skinned black folk… I’m just curious since the president is half white, you know.

Me
Me
4 years ago

I do think Obama is also white, but everyone tends to get their panties in a bunch because he calls himself black.

kalexa1
kalexa1
4 years ago

We all know it’s based on how much the persons features look black or white, african or european origin. Simple as.

anton
anton
3 years ago
Reply to  kalexa1

approx.300 million sub saharan africans, ethiopian, somali, tutsi etc. have so called european features. Hundreds of millions of south east asians have features smilar to the amerucan sterotypic african features. But those african americans descend only from specific regions in western africa.
So those categories are totally fictional…

anton
anton
3 years ago

Obama was saying this only because of the black vote. His half brother in china who is also half lithuanian jewish like lacey potrays himself as multi ethnic, both white and black.
Also african blacks do not accept whitew with one black parents as black. especially kenyans with their clan structures.
Obama did this only because of politics.

Slut-ocracy
Slut-ocracy
4 years ago
Reply to  Me

Yeah. It’s so illogical that Americans still use the one drop rule to call anyone with black ancestry “black”. I mean okay people who are 75% black are more black than white so I guess it makes sense, but how does it possibly make sense for the halfers?

Shanice Collins
Shanice Collins
4 years ago

I watched this documentary sometime last year. It was very interesting, but the whole time I was thinking to myself “How could her father (and other family) not know?” She reminds me a lot of Jordin Sparks.

Sarah
Sarah
4 years ago

I didn’t see the documentary (although I want to) but as they said in the trailer, you see what you want to see and make stuff make sense. She looked just like a sista to me though.

Cosita
Cosita
4 years ago

I watched it and I don’t think for a minute her parents didn’t know. They just thought if they didn’t acknowledge it then they could pretend they didn’t know. People did that a lot in past generations. Look at Diana Ross first child she had with Barry Gordy acting like it was by her white husband. My great uncle is black. So is his wife. His wife cheated on him with the white insurance man back in the day and got pregnant. Kid came out looking nothing like any of our family or the other siblings. I don’t mean just… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
4 years ago

So I ended up watching it and I agree with you. She’s no Maya Fahey or Pete Wentz (he still looks Black to me), like home girl had brown skin, and crazy curly hair. Sure she didn’t grow up in a time of Internet or diverse TV but the older family members and dad had to feel SOMETHING! I think they may have been too nice to actually voice anything.

Shanice Collins
Shanice Collins
4 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

I had no idea Pete Wentz was bi-racial. Never heard of Maya Fahey but after a Google search and seeing that her mom is Victoria Rowell — all I can say is WOW. I’ll add Kitt McDonald, Eartha Kitt’s daughter, to that list. Genetics is a crazy thing.

LBell
LBell
4 years ago

If I may add two more (and a couple of book recommendations):
— Bliss Broyard (“One Drop”)
— Toi Derricotte (“The Black Notebooks”)

After reading Derricotte’s book I remember distinctly thinking how GLAD I was to be, as a professor once put it, “optically black.”

Sarah
Sarah
4 years ago

Oh wow, Kitt McDonald is SO pretty and looks just like her mom lol. At first I thought she was Phoebe from Friends. Genetics are crazy, and with a lot of those people listed, I could easily see how the family would look the other way but not with sista girl in this documentary. I did enjoy how she began to identify with Black at the end but I felt so bad for her dad. Like he raised her and I’m sure to him, it felt like she was denying him and his family- which didn’t have to be the case.

Slut-ocracy
Slut-ocracy
4 years ago

This exact same thing happened to Louboutin. Just based on her appearance (I’ve not watched the film) I feel that this lie was only possible (at least to her and white people) because by chance she looks more white than black. To me she looks 1/4 rather than 1/2 black. I wonder if, in the past, biracial children born to black ‘parents’ were priveleged cos they would be seen as lighter=“prettier” and as having “good hair” by the black community. Perhaps their siblings were jealous and wanted to look like them. If she had been darker she would’ve known. However,… Read more »

amilah
amilah
4 years ago
Reply to  Slut-ocracy

My daughter is half Chinese and I think when she gets older, people will guess shes Filipino or Cambodian. She has all my features except she’s very light and she has the epicanthic fold like her dad. She also has cousins who are half African but they don’t look as Asian as she does, more than likely because I have Asian and Irish ancestry along with my African while he doesn’t. I hear his family call her asian including his sister who’s kids are mixed but she never forrral say that about her own because they are clearly black and… Read more »

fromanotherplanet
fromanotherplanet
4 years ago

No one in this family had a mirror? DEAD!!! LOL I can’t.

cac40
cac40
4 years ago

Why do they still have this conversation about being black or white in this country? She is both (blak and white) she is not black and she is not white, even the mix of these colors have a word brown but not for people. In every language it has a word but in English. What does it ultimately change whether anyone is one or the other? Why this need to put people in categories. We are all people, point blank the rest is just blablabla. Just take people as they are… everyone will feel better. This race issue is really… Read more »

laila
laila
4 years ago

khloe kardashian

CocoaGoddess
CocoaGoddess
4 years ago
Reply to  laila

Oh gosh, yesss, I was thinking the same thing

Choco Syrup
Choco Syrup
4 years ago

I ended up watching Little White Lie after reading this story and I cried like a baby at the ending. Not so much because of how it ended but because I so identify with Lacey. Although my story is not identical to hers, I too grew up confused about my identity. My mom was mixed and looked white. She didn’t try to ‘pass’, however I have vivid memories of when I was young staring at her and wondering exactly what she was. I even came to the conclusion that I was adopted because I looked nothing like her. My Dad… Read more »

Jc Jc
Jc Jc
4 years ago
Reply to  Choco Syrup

Aww that struck a chord with me. My daughter is biracial but she really does just look white (she is still a baby so she may get some more colour later in life, but for now she looks white). I am even known in the baby group as the black woman with the white baby. After reading your comment, I will definitely make sure that she knows and gets comfortable with her ethnicity no matter how light or dark her skin ends up being. Thanks so much for sharing.

Cosita
Cosita
4 years ago

LOL In the film and in follow up interviews Lacey refers to her self identifies as black specifically as “black Jewish”. So that people are taking issue with what how BGLH wrote their title makes no sense to me. Why are people especially if they haven’t seen the film that BGLH arbitrarily just labeled her black. Believe it or not there are people who have one black and nonblack parent who CHOOSE to identify as black because they WANT to. I have friends who do. And I have friends who have asian and white and choose to id as one.… Read more »

Andrea
Andrea
4 years ago
Reply to  Cosita

THANK YOU. I am mixed but I identify as black. So many people wanna be like “oh, biracial people shouldn’t have to pick just one racial identity!” but then when we WANT to use just one racial identity they just wanna side-eye and disrespect us.

Cosita
Cosita
4 years ago
Reply to  Andrea

Exactly. I have friends and family who are identify as you do.. I would never tell a biracial person they can’t or shouldn’t id as black because I have had the same crap said to me and I’m NOT biracial. This is a quote from Lacey ““Being bi-racial, mixed race, is a category of being black, not a category of being white,” Schwartz believes. “It’s an inclusive thing.”
That’s Her opinion. She’s entitled to it.

Sondra Cherry
Sondra Cherry
4 years ago
Reply to  Andrea

Me too..

Chocolate drop
Chocolate drop
4 years ago

Biracial is NOT black. We need to stop trying to make them black when in reality they’re not

Sondra Cherry
Sondra Cherry
4 years ago
Reply to  Chocolate drop

So what are we? I identify as both..but relate more to the black side..I’m accepted by both native Americans, and black.

kat2279
kat2279
4 years ago

In Jamaica where I am from, there is no confusion as whether you are black or mixed/browning. You are exactly what your features say. If you are clearly of mixed race you are a browning but definitely not black. Funny enough no one has issues with it here. So why do people outside try to absorb the mixed into another race for which they do not belong.… It’s strange!! The world needs to recognize this. This woman is clearly not black but of mixed race.

Sondra Cherry
Sondra Cherry
4 years ago

I didn’t know about my black heritage until a few yrs ago..I am also native American, I was told my father was nearly full blood Indian..wasn’t the case. The more I checked into my ancestry, the more I uncovered. I’ve always related to black culture, and felt more comfortable with black folks..I felt relief when I found out the truth, because people would always ask me what I was, for so long I didn’t even know what they meant..now I do. Be proud of who you are, we’re all beautiful in our own ways, no matter the shade, embrace it.

folamix
folamix
4 years ago

I could look at her and tell she was biracial.…smh

anton
anton
3 years ago

She looks like many mizrachi or swphardi jews.
She still is white, because in the same sense she pretends to be black she can petrend to be white. I dont know why so many still believe in the one drop rule of slavery when this this rulw was a mechanosm to limit heirs and maximize human property.

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