Growing Up White Until a Family Secret Revealed She Was Not

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-03-24 17:35Z by Steven

Growing Up White Until a Family Secret Revealed She Was Not

The Root
2015-03-22

Genetta M. Adams, Senior Editor

In the documentary Little White Lie, filmmaker Lacey Schwartz spins a compelling story about embracing her racial identity.

Lacey Schwartz grew up as a white, Jewish girl in the predominantly white community of Woodstock, N.Y., raised by Peggy and Robert Schwartz. But what she didn’t know at the time was that her biological father was black.

The idea of “passing” for white has long been a part of African-American culture. But Schwartz’s story isn’t one about passing. She truly believed that she was white.

How she came to embrace her biracial identity and confront her parents about the family secret is the subject of her documentary, Little White Lie, which airs Monday on PBS as part of its Independent Lens series.

Judging someone’s racial identity by appearance alone can be tricky—the recent story about Nancy Giles’ reaction to Jay Smooth makes that point fairly obvious. But when Schwartz was a child, her light-brown skin and curly hair elicited comments from people outside her immediate family circle: At her bat mitzvah, a woman from the synagogue mistook Lacey for an Ethiopian Jew.

When Schwartz questioned her parents, her father showed her a portrait of her Sicilian great-grandfather, whose darker skin seemingly provided an explanation for her own. Schwartz, like everyone around her, bought this story…

Read the entire article here.

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Little White Lie

Posted in Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States, Videos on 2015-03-24 00:08Z by Steven

Little White Lie

Independent Lens
Public Broadcasting Service
Monday, 2015-03-23, 22:00 EDT (21:00 CDT) (check schedule here)

Little White Lie tells Lacey Schwartz’s story of growing up in a typical upper-middle-class Jewish household in Woodstock, NY, with loving parents and a strong sense of her Jewish identity — despite the open questions from those around her about how a white girl could have such dark skin. She believes her family’s explanation that her looks were inherited from her dark-skinned Sicilian grandfather. But when her parents abruptly split, her gut starts to tell her something different.

At age 18, she finally confronts her mother and learns the truth: her biological father was not the man who raised her, but an African American man named Rodney with whom her mother had had an affair. Afraid of losing her relationship with her parents, Lacey doesn’t openly acknowledge her newly discovered black identity with her white family. When her biological father dies shortly before Lacey’s 30th birthday, the family secret can stay hidden no longer. Following the funeral, Lacey begins a quest to reconcile the hidden pieces of her life and heal her relationship with the only father she ever knew.

Schwartz pieces together her family history and the story of her dual identity using home videos, archival footage, interviews, and episodes from her own life. Little White Lie is a personal documentary about the legacy of family secrets, denial, and redemption.

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Family Secret And Cultural Identity Revealed In ‘Little White Lie’

Posted in Audio, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2015-03-23 14:03Z by Steven

Family Secret And Cultural Identity Revealed In ‘Little White Lie’

Morning Edition
National Public Radio
2015-03-23

Michele Norris, Host and Special Correspondent

Filmmaker Lacey Schwartz grew up in a white Jewish family in Woodstock, New York, believing she was white. Schwartz learns she’s bi-racial as she prepares to attend college.

Listen to the story here. Download the audio here. Read the transcript here.

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A young Jewish woman, raised as white, learns she’s not

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2015-03-20 01:00Z by Steven

A young Jewish woman, raised as white, learns she’s not

Religion News Service
2015-03-13

Lauren Markoe, National Reporter

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Schwartz‘s seemed like any other Jewish family in Woodstock, N.Y., except for one thing: mom and dad were obviously white, and their daughter Lacey was obviously not.

That racial disconnect would be easier to fathom if Peggy and Robert Schwartz hadn’t had everyone believing their dark-skinned daughter was the biological child of both parents.

It would take “Little White Lie,” the film an adult Lacey made about family secrets and religious identity, to unpack this mystery.

“I grew up in a world of synagogue, Hebrew school, bar mitzvahs,” Schwartz narrates over a home movie montage of Jewish holiday celebrations and her own bat mitzvah.

“So it never occurred to me that I was passing,” she continues. “I wasn’t pretending to be something I wasn’t. I actually grew up believing I was white.”

“Little White Lie,” which has enjoyed success on the film festival circuit and will reach a larger audience when PBS’s Independent Lens airs it on March 23, revolves around a flabbergasting central question: How could this family pretend that she owed her complexion to the genes of dad’s darkest Italian ancestor?…

Read the entire article here.

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Allan Wolper Talks to Lacey Schwartz

Posted in Audio, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-03-16 18:01Z by Steven

Allan Wolper Talks to Lacey Schwartz

Conversations with Allan Wolper
WBGO 88.3 FM
Newark, New Jersey
2015-03-16

Allan Wolper, Professor of Journalism
Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey, Newark

Lacey Schwartz has written, produced and directed a documentary, Little White Lie, detailing how she grew up as a white, Jewish girl in Woodstock, New York, only to learn in college that her biological father was black and a friend of her family. Her late biological father was Rodney Parker, a legendary New York City college basketball scout from Brooklyn whose life was captured in a book called Heaven is a Playground that was later made into a movie. President Barack Obama said it was the best basketball book he had ever read. The one hour documentary, part of the Independent Lens series will air at 10 p. m. on Monday 23 on PBS stations across the country.

Listen to the interview here.

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This Passover Choose Judaism

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-03-16 01:53Z by Steven

This Passover Choose Judaism

My Jewish Learning
Be’chol Lashon
2015-03-10

Alex Barnett

My wife and I are an interracial couple. I am a White, Ashkenazi Jewish man from New York. She is a Black woman from Detroit, raised in the Lutheran faith, who converted (to Jewish, not to White. She’s still Black). Our 3 year old Biracial son is Jewish.

When I talk about my wife’s conversion, rather than saying she converted I like to say that she’s Jewish by choice. I do this because conversion sounds like the process by which a sofa becomes an uncomfortable bed. Or it sounds like something that happens by magic. I wave my magic wand and “poof” you’re Jewish. Whereas being a Jewish person by choice requires a conscious affirmative decision.

And make no mistake, being Jewish is a choice, whether you were born into our Tribe or whether you joined us midway through the show…

Read the entire article here.

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Color Erases, Color Paints

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Religion on 2015-03-11 17:11Z by Steven

Color Erases, Color Paints

Tablet: A New Read on Jewish Life
2015-03-10

Isaiah Rothstein

Each day this week, the Scroll will be featuring a post from a writer at JN Magazine—short for “Jewnited Nations”—a website “here to change the monochromatic monolithic perception of Judaism.” Each post has been commissioned and edited by MaNishtana, the pseudonym of Shais Rishon, a Tablet contributor and editor-at-large at JN Magazine.

Growing up mixed race in Monsey, N.Y.

I often relate to my peer group that both my maternal and paternal ancestors were slaves: As Hebrews in the desert hills of Egypt, and as Africans on the southern plantations of Alabama.

“And he (Moses) called his (son’s) name Gershom, because he was a stranger in a strange land.” (Exodus 2:22)

I grew up in the Orthodox Jewish community of Monsey, N.Y. With my peyot until I was 10 years old and my father’s unwavering affiliation with the Chabad Lubavitch movement, I think it would be safe to say I was raised in what one would call the Haredi community. But our Thanksgiving family reunions revealed a whole other aspect of my family tree, and from a young age I was forced to consider what my own identity would be and what I would make my legacy.

Once Tanya Maria Robertson, my mother split her own sea and converted to Judaism in 1982, becoming Shulamit Geulah Rothstein. And so, as with her own parents, two worlds came together, creating another dimension of civil rights and Jewish unity: the Rothstein family. But with such realities came great complexity…

Read the entire article here.

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The Lazy Storytelling of ‘Black or White': Love and Justice Are Not Colorblind

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-02-12 03:23Z by Steven

The Lazy Storytelling of ‘Black or White': Love and Justice Are Not Colorblind

Christ and Pop Culture (CAPC)
2015-02-11

D. L. Mayfield

I was at a writing retreat once where a bunch of us gathered together to talk about how to write well about social justice issues in our world. A young singer-songwriter with a folksy vibe came and played a set for us. He introduced a song as inspired by how sad he was at the racial divide of the city, and how it seemed that white folks and blacks folks didn’t get along. He launched into a song, the chorus going something like this: we used to sing so beautifully together/perhaps one day we’ll sing together again.

After he was done singing, one of my fellow writers—the only black man in our cohort, who also happened to live in North Carolina—asked the singer-songwriter to elaborate on the interactions that inspired the song. The singer stumbled over his words and told a few stories of interacting with African-American folks who to his perception seemed less-than-friendly to white folks. We all sat quietly as he shared his perspective, and later debriefed about that particular song. Why did it make us all feel so uncomfortable? Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, the leader of our group (a man who has been involved in racial reconciliation work for decades now) leaned forward and in his southern drawl poignantly identified the trouble. What I want to know is this: and just when, exactly, did we ever all sing together?

…The recent release starring Kevin Costner, Black or White, is uncomfortable in the exact same way. Ostensibly this is a movie which dares to look at race issues: Costner is a white grandfather parenting his bi-racial granddaughter who becomes entangled in a custody battle by the black father and his extended family. By turns a tragedy, a comedy, a courtroom drama, with a dash of heart-warming family film. Costner plays Elliot Anderson, a wealthy alcoholic lawyer reeling from the sudden death of his wife. Octavia Spencer plays Rowena, the paternal grandmother of Eloise, the girl in Elliot’s sole care. Rowena (Grandma “Wee Wee”) and the extended family she takes care of live in Compton; Elliot lives somewhere else—a better part of LA, we shall say. Rowena and the family want to see more of Eloise but Elliot resists. In exasperation, they retain Rowena’s younger brother, a lawyer, to sue Elliot for full custody of the child. Reggie, the birth dad, shows up halfway through the movie, adding emotional intrigue. The audience is left wondering at the motivations of Reggie, who is introduced as a crack-addict and absentee father (“you’re a stereotype, Reggie—you ruin it for all of us”—his uncle tells him).

The themes explored are certainly worthy of a full-length movie. Eloise and her biracial identity, the way economics affects both parenting and legal procedures, the stereotypes we put onto one another, how certain addictions are more culturally acceptable—these are all fascinating and could prove to be invaluable insights into the pulse of a nation that is currently struggling with racial injustice and unrest. But Black or White addresses all of these issues in both a superficial and strangely maudlin way—so much emotion, but so little truth behind it…

Read the entire article here.

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Part Asian-American, All Jewish?

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-02-11 23:34Z by Steven

Part Asian-American, All Jewish?

Code Switch: Frontiers of Race, Culture and Ethnicity
National Public Radio
2015-02-10

Rachel Gross, Editor
Moment Magazine

I was five years old when my mother threatened to give me away to journalist Connie Chung.

Chung and her husband, Maury Povich, had just announced their intention to adopt a half-Chinese, half-Jewish child. At this, my mother, watching on TV in our living room, did a double take. She looked at the screen. Then she looked at me, her half-Chinese, half-Jewish, fully-misbehaving daughter. “How would you like to go live with that woman?” she said.

It was then that I had a startling realization: I was special. Not special in the way that everyone’s kids are special — I mean really special. I, with my chubby Chinese cheeks and frizzy Jewish hair, was a unique snowflake, shaped like the Star of David, dusted with matcha green tea powder.

“I’m special!” I announced. “Famous people want to adopt me!”

Mom rolled her eyes as if to say, oy vey.

Only later would I learn the truth: Not everyone was as thrilled about my heritage as I was. The problem was mainly on the Jewish side. As I grew up, announcing I was Jewish often felt “like trying to cross a border with borrowed credentials,” in Joan Didion’s words. “But you don’t look Jewish!” came the incredulous reply. Some even implied that the union that produced me was nothing less than a threat to the Jewish people — that I was what was wrong with Judaism today…

Read the entire article here.

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Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion on 2015-01-25 02:11Z by Steven

Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
January 2015
336 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-06301-1
6.6 × 9.6 in

Marie Mutsuki Mockett

How does one cope with overwhelming grief?

Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s family owns a Buddhist temple 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In March 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami, radiation levels prohibited the burial of her Japanese grandfather’s bones. As Japan mourned thousands of people lost in the disaster, Mockett also grieved for her American father, who had died unexpectedly.

Seeking consolation, Mockett is guided by a colorful cast of Zen priests and ordinary Japanese who perform rituals that disturb, haunt, and finally uplift her. Her journey leads her into the radiation zone in an intricate white hazmat suit; to Eiheiji, a school for Zen Buddhist monks; on a visit to a Crab Lady and Fuzzy-Headed Priest’s temple on Mount Doom; and into the “thick dark” of the subterranean labyrinth under Kiyomizu temple, among other twists and turns. From the ecstasy of a cherry blossom festival in the radiation zone to the ghosts inhabiting chopsticks, Mockett writes of both the earthly and the sublime with extraordinary sensitivity. Her unpretentious and engaging voice makes her the kind of companion a reader wants to stay with wherever she goes, even into the heart of grief itself.

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