Lesson
Duration:
1 class period

Discovering Identity

Essential Questions

 

  • What is the relationship between identity and family?
  • What happens when we get mixed messages about where we come from and who we are?

 

Overview

Who am I? Who are you? Who and what makes us who we are? How much do our families control what we become? How much does our background influence the groups we join and where we feel a sense of belonging?

In the documentary film Little White Lie, Lacey Schwartz explores these questions by sharing her own personal journey to understand herself. Lacey was born into a white, Jewish family in upstate New York and was raised by two loving parents. Because of her appearance and the questions she was asked about why her skin was so much darker than the rest of her family’s, she often felt different in white circles and confused about why she looked the way she did. During high school and college, she began to challenge the idea that she is solely white. By uncovering the secret about her birth parentage and finding a sense of belonging with people of color, Lacey uncovered truths about who she is, who her family is, and what it means to be fully herself in all of her communities. In this lesson, students will watch clips from the film Little White Lie and interrogate the complexity of identity.

Learning Goals

 

  • Students will understand that identity is dynamic and fluid.
  • Students will develop a deeper understanding of the complexity of identity by engaging with the experience of one person’s journey.

 

Materials

Activities

  1. Meet Lacey Schwartz

    Have students read Lacey’s Schwartz’s Story. Then have them make an identity chart for Lacey. How does she see herself? In what ways do others question her identity? Discuss the following questions to help students frame their responses:

    • What have you learned about Lacey from this piece?

    • How do parents communicate ideas about identity to their children?

    • What happens when we don’t fit the standard or expected narrative of our community?

    • Why is difference often seen as confusing or something to be explained? Can difference ever be seen as normal?

  2. Watch the film clip Exploring Identity in College

    After watching the clip, give students an opportunity to discuss their responses to these questions in a journal or in conversations:

    • How did Lacey gain membership to groups at Georgetown? Why do you think her insecurities grew at college?

    • How did Lacey’s feelings about her physical appearance change when she went to Georgetown? How does she explain this change?

    • Lacey describes friends she made at Georgetown as “outsiders.” Why do you think “outsiders” often stick together?

    • How can a new environment affect how we see ourselves? How can a new environment affect how we see others?

  3. Watch the film clip Processing Identity

    After Lacey learns that her biological father is black, she starts to incorporate the term “biracial” into her identity. In this clip, she processes the idea of a biracial identity with her friends. Show this second clip, and then give students an opportunity to discusses their responses to these questions:

    • Lacey talks about how, throughout her life, people constantly asked her why she looked the way she did. What effect do you think that questioning had on the way Lacey came to see herself? After Lacey has deeper answers to questions about her background, how does she want to identify?

    • Lacey and her friends say that being “mixed” doesn’t feel like a category of being white. Why do you think they feel that way? Do you think others might have a different feeling about this topic?

    • Lacey ends by saying, “Being true to myself means being both white and black. But when it came to my family, I kept the black part under wraps.” Why do you think Lacey had such a difficult time sharing her full identity with her family? Why can it be difficult to be ourselves even with people who know us well?

    • What happens when parts of our identity differ significantly from our parents’ identities?

    • Who gets to decide issues of identity?

    • How does Lacey's story challenge and extend your ideas about identity and membership?

To learn more, visit the film’s website.

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