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.