Lacey Schwartz, of Woodstock, New York, grew up believing she was a Jewish white girl. When she turned 18 and went off to college, her mother dropped a bombshell on her: the man she thought was her father was not actually her biological father.
Schwartz has chronicled the discovery of her actual biracial heritage in the documentary Little White Lie.
Schwartz, who was raised in a Jewish household, never doubted her white mother and father were her biological parents, even though she had brown skin and curly hair.
It was not until she was accepted at Georgetown University and the school, after viewing her photo, sent it to the black student association, that Schwartz confronted her mother.
At that point, Schwartz’s mother revealed that her father was actually a black man named Rodney who she had had an affair with briefly, reports The Daily Mail.
Her mother explained her infidelity by saying: ”Lacey, you have to realize, before I was your mother, I was a person, and I was a girl and I was a woman.”
Schwartz, now 37, was 18 at the time of the revelation.
“I come from a long line of New York Jews,” Schwartz explained in the film. “I grew up in a world of synagogue, Hebrew school and bar mitzvahs, so it never occurred to me that I was [different].
“I wasn't pretending to be something I wasn't. I actually grew up believing I was white.”
Schwartz’s father never knew she was not his biological daughter, either. Her mother had told him her dark complexion came from a dark-skinned Sicilian grandfather.
The family secret did not always make sense, but Schwartz says ways were found to “see what we wanted to believe.”
“It really is the power of denial. How the hell did anybody not acknowledge this?” Schwartz said.
The same goes for a childhood friend of Schwartz, who never saw her as anything but white.
“I always looked at you like you looked black…but not that you were,” the childhood friend said.
Schwartz told Voxshe now identifies as “black/biracial.”
Little White Lie -- which premiered theatrically in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC in 2013, and is set to air on PBS in March -- is seen by Schwartz as a broad lesson on the “power of telling the truth.”
“I think the film's broader lesson is about the power of telling the truth, having difficult conversations and then moving forward,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz has also created a website where people can anonymously share their family secrets.