A couple of weeks ago Independent Lens on PBS aired the documentary Little White Lie. The documentary was directed by Lacey Schwartz. Little White Lie is about Lacey growing up as a white Jewish girl in Woodstock, New York. Only problem is she isn’t white. Her mother hid from her who she really is. Lacey’s biological father was black but Lacey was raised by her parents as white and Jewish.
The documentary “Little White Lie” would be provocative simply for what it says about race and identity. The director Lacey Schwartz grew up Jewish in Woodstock, N.Y., yet something seemed off. Her peers would ask if she was adopted. At Ms. Schwartz’s bat mitzvah, a member of her synagogue assumed she was an Ethiopian Jew. Her family attributed her darker skin to a Sicilian great-grandfather. Only gradually did Ms. Schwartz, now 37, begin to suspect what might seem obvious to an outsider: that her biological father was black.
“Little White Lie” is, in part, the story of Ms. Schwartz’s evolving view of her background. As a child, she thought of herself as white and even wished for a lighter complexion. College changed that: Although she didn’t declare a race on her application, she says Georgetown considered her a black student based on a photograph. She was welcomed by the Black Student Alliance and began to experience the influence that race has on everyday life.
I really enjoyed this documentary. Imagine growing up thinking you are of a certain race or ethnicity and find out later that you are of a different race. Lacey was told that her dark skin came from her Sicilian great-grandfather. I was angry at Lacey’s parents for lying to her about her background. How can a parent lie to their child about their background?
Check out this interview with Lacey at PBS.org.