DEAR HARRIETTE: I think that a friend of mine is lying about her ethnicity in order to fit in with our friend group.
She is fair-skinned and has always claimed to be biracial. I haven’t seen her father, but her mother is definitely a White woman.
I understand that mixed-race people can look all types of ways, but I have my suspicions. I think that this girl is 100% White and decided to tell people that she is biracial. None of her social media shows that she has any Black relatives.
What should I do? I can’t just force her to prove her Blackness … can I?
DEAR DECEPTION: This is a tough one. Just because this friend hasn’t introduced you to her Black family members does not mean they don’t exist. But if you feel so strongly about it, ask her.
Don’t accuse her. Just express your curiosity. Ask her to tell you more about her family. In some instances in mixed-race families, one side of the family is estranged.
The notion of “passing” is not new in this country. Historically, it meant that light-skinned Black people who could pass for white did so in order to gain opportunities — anything from work to being able to shop for food or clothing, or being able to live in a particular neighborhood.
More recently, some White people have passed for Black in order to be part of the community. A famous example is Rachel Dolezal, who became active in racial justice only to be shunned when it was discovered that she was not who she claimed to be.
You need to ask yourself if it makes a difference to you what race your friend is. If so, talk to her, express your deepest feelings and see what she says.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I was recently diagnosed with a personality disorder that makes me fearful and paranoid around the people closest to me.
I am seeking treatment for this issue, but I have not been absolutely honest with everyone around me about what is going on.
Should I disclose my condition to people even though I am seeking treatment? I am not ashamed, but I do fear that people may treat me differently once they know I have a legitimate personality disorder.
DEAR PERSONALITY DISORDER: Talk to your mental health professional to get advice on how to approach your family. They will have experience in how to ease into this conversation with your loved ones.
From a lay perspective, I will say that it may be wise to choose one or two family members as confidants initially. Who are you most comfortable engaging? Choose that person and sit down with them. Explain that you have some sensitive news to share, and you ask for them to listen and keep the information confidential. Tell your story, including that you are getting help to navigate your condition.
Be open about your trepidation to share with the family as you don’t want to be treated differently. Ask for their patience as you drum up the courage to share more broadly.
Reality check: That person may tell somebody anyway. That’s the nature of secrets. They usually don’t last long. But for a while, anyway, you can have someone in whom to confide as you get more comfortable revealing your diagnosis.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.