Will “White People Believe Anything” About Race?

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Filmmaker Lacey Schwartz at the Brooklyn Historical Society
Filmmaker Lacey Schwartz at the Brooklyn Historical Society
Pardon the delay in posting, but we had some technical difficulties. But I’m back now. And so happy to be here to tell you about a great event I went to on Monday in Brooklyn. In honor of Loving Day, the Brooklyn Historical Society hosted a screening of Lacey Schwartz’s amazing documentary, Little White Lie, followed by a discussion with Schwartz moderated by my neighbor and friend, the writer Lise Funderberg. Needless to say, it was an evening well spent.

Little White Lie is a completely raw and honest racial identity story. Schwartz grew up in Woodstock, New York in the 80s and 90s in a “nice Jewish family,” believing she was “a nice Jewish girl.” The only thing was, her skin was really brown and her hair was really curly. Really curly. In the film we learn that Schwartz’s parents explained their daughter’s complexion and hair with the suggestion that she favored a distant relative from Sicily. He was dark too. Without giving too much away, they lied. That is, at least one parent lied.

The film is truly fascinating as Lacey goes back and retraces her childhood through her adult years, interviewing friends and family to see if they ever suspected that she was actually Black. As it turns out, the only person who ever guessed the truth behind the lie, was her high school boyfriend, who happened to be biracial himself. When interviewed, he was truly incredulous that nobody in Schwartz’s family ever suspected the truth. “White people will believe anything,” he said.

Perhaps it’s not that White people will believe anything, but rather, they’d prefer not to talk about race to such an extent that they would ignore a very obvious Black girl being passed off as White right under their noses. Or maybe it’s just that they didn’t have the language to start the conversation about a loaded racial topic? Or maybe, just maybe, they didn’t want to be rude and get all up in the Schwartz family business? Whatever the reason, this is a truly enlightening film that opens up a lot of questions about race, identity, color and family dynamics. You can see why I felt I had to be there.

At the end of it all, I was left wondering what it meant that an entire White community would accept a Black girl as long as they believed she was White. And therefore, if it isn’t skin color that makes a person Black, or White for that matter, what is it? I have ideas about how to answer that question, but I’d prefer to hear yours.

I’m listening and taking notes. And in the meantime, find a way to see this film. It’s worth it.


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One Thought to “Will “White People Believe Anything” About Race?”

  1. Martine

    I saw this documentary and would also recommend it. I think one of the reasons everyone believed the lie was because the truth implied that her mother had had an affair and that made everyone avoid the topic. It’s a fascinating story, I was especially riveted when she went to college where she lived as a black woman and then went home and lived as a white woman.

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