A Racial Coming Out: Little White Lie

There are many ways to come out but the least likely of which is a racial coming out, especially for a person of color. Can that happen? Yes, absolutely and the wonderful little documentary Little White Lie on PBS is all about that: learning and explaining your race when you find out that aren’t actually who you thought you were.

The film follows (and is made by) Lacey Schwartz, a young woman who grew up in the New York area in a very Jewish household. While her parents are white, she only looks kinda white. The explanation given is that her father had a Sicilian, very dark featured relative: thus, Lacey has very dark skin. No one questioned this and, as you watch the film, you try to pinpoint how and why Lacey is so dark skinned. Thus, she was raised believing—and passing—as a white Jewish girl from the New York area, an identity that many questioned. As you watch, you too wonder about a lot: are her parents lying? Is she adopted? Is this bygone dark Italian really why she is so dark skinned?

I won’t spoil what the truth is here but the latter half of the movie is spent following Lacey “coming out,” realizing that she is not who she thought she was. For a gay man, it’s an incredibly relatable experience: I spent 21 years of my life convinced that I was straight, knowing that I would one day have a wife, because I had been taught that and (inadvertently) brainwashed to believe that. Was that the case? No. I was crazy gay and had not even allowed myself to consider the very obvious reason why I wasn’t able to get excited by a woman.

Lacey’s exploration is with the black community, which she inadvertently finds herself in thanks to her college, Georgetown University. (Adding irony to irony: I too went to Georgetown and it was there that I too had my coming out experience.) The film very carefully wanders around subjects like racism and acceptance, truth and love in a manner that is truly extraordinary. Lacey’s experience is so fucking crazy and her family’s story—particularly how they deal with “the truth”—is so insane that you almost cannot believe it’s real. While ultimately uplifting and about discovering your true self, there is a lot of sadness and gloom surrounding the story. They’ve over come it, though.

Little White Lie is a must watch for anyone who has questioned their identity. It’s an expert example of documentary in that it truly is following an experience that is absolutely unique. You can catch it online and, for more on Lacey, I definitely suggest reading this article on Salon. Note: watch the movie before you read, though. Not that there is a “twist” in the movie—but there is. Let the film tell her story to you.

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