Black women rarely get to work without the burden of everyone’s biases, and reality television is no exception. The second part of The Real Housewives of Potomac reunion featured the cast discussing colorism.
Candiace Dillard-Basset, Wendy Osefo, and the rest of the housewives stepped up to the plate to facilitate the discussion, and I thought to myself, “I really hope they got another bonus for this.”
Dillard-Basset and Osefo have been held to a different standard than their counterparts by fans because of the color of their skin. Since joining the franchise, they have been the subject of racially motivated attacks from trolls.
They are victimized by certain viewers, not because of their friendly husbands or “antagonizing” comments, but because of their skin tones. This is demonstrated by dog whistles like “aggressive” being tossed at them while their counterparts get called “messy” for the same behavior. Even when they go out of their way not to portray stereotypes like Wendy did in the fight with Mia, they still get the brunt of the blame for every altercation.
Ashley and Mia acknowledged their privilege, and the Grande Dame admitted that colorism was entrenched in her family lineage. Robyn and Gizelle were, Robyn and Gizelle. But it was Candiace who consulted Miriam-Webster to explain that “prejudice or discrimination, especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin.” Executive producer Andy Cohen stepped back and said he was giving her the floor because she was “most vocal” about the situation.
Get someone else to do it
This emotional labor put the ownness on her to defend herself against something she should not have to put up with to begin with.
Colorism is real, and we should be talking about it, but having Candiace lead the conversation when she is the one being attacked by fans and trolls felt wrong. The way this went down is another reminder that Black women, particularly darker-skinned women, are required to do more labor than their counterparts. The cast chose not to have a moderator, but the fact that they even had to make that choice is outside the bounds of what a housewife should do on a show dedicated to drink-tossing and island-hopping.
Candiace and Wendy deserve to argue over petty rumors and who has the biggest Chanel bag. It is bad enough that they have to experience this, but why do they have to convince others that this is real? It is exhausting to try and explain yourself to people committed to misunderstanding you, for anyone, let alone someone just trying to do their job. Having people play in your face and tell you your experience is not real is hurtful.
Black Women continue to do the heavy lifting
This is not the only example of Black women doing double duty to address systemic racism when that is not the job they showed up to do.
Black “Bravolebrities” participated in a special about racism following the world, watching George Floyd be slaughtered through their smartphones in 2020. They were hurting with the rest of the world, but they had to put that aside and show up to work to defend a marginalized community, even though they were part of that marginalized community.
Eboni K. Williams had to film with people who said on camera that they were uninterested in learning about her experience in the last season of “The Real Housewives of New York City.” Garcelle Beauvais felt her feelings were not addressed during the season 12 reunion of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”
It goes beyond the “Bravoverse” as well. Colorism and racism are in every workplace. How often have we complained that Normani gets the short end of the stick for hitting all the boom and cacks while an avalanche of light-skin girls whisper into microphones and slip into the top spots on streaming playlists?
As reality shows expand to represent different kinds of people, these things will happen more often. These shows speak to the everyday person, and sadly the everyday person can be racist. I’m just as flummoxed as the producers about a better solution for having these conversations. But having the victims of colorism educate others on its harmful effects is not it.
Bravo, whatever you are paying Candiace. Double it. Yesterday.
Part three of “The Real Housewives of Potomac” airs Sunday, March 5 at 8 pm on Bravo.
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