Housewives

Dear Bravo: Adding Diversity Doesn’t Automatically Eradicate The Racism From Your Shows

By Jonathan Chandler | May 13, 2021
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After 13 long years, we finally got our first Black Housewife on The Real Housewives of New York, Eboni K. Williams. I was so excited because I finally got to see a Black woman on one of my favorite shows ever. However, I quickly noticed that the fan reaction to Eboni being cast wasn’t necessarily about her and what she could bring to RHONY. Rather, people were excited that someone would call out the ignorance on the show. I had the same sentiment when Tiffany Moon was casted on The Real Housewives of Dallas and when Garcelle Beauvais was announced as a cast member on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Adding diversity isn’t going to automatically solve the ignorance within your shows, nor is it the responsibility of women of color to solve the issues for you. 

Let’s be honest, Eboni, Garcelle, and Tiffany weren’t hired because they were close friends with the women on their respective shows. Bravo noticed that there was a severe diversity issue within the franchises. I mean, it’s not like people of color don’t exist in these cities, although many of the white women in these franchises have friend groups that are, for the most part, very, very, white. So, when you throw in a person of color, it’s bound to change the dynamic a bit. However, casting a woman of color for the sole purpose of diversity doesn’t do any justice for these shows, especially when their white castmates aren’t aware of their internalized ignorance. 

Let’s take Garcelle Beauvais for example. Beauvais, an actress and talk show host, is the first Black woman ever to be cast on RHOBH, and many people, including myself, were very excited. RHOBH is known as the Housewives franchise that represents opulence, glamour, and women simply existing in luxury. It’s not often that you get to see a Black woman simply exist without stereotypes being pushed upon her. Beauvais seemed to feel disconnected with the ladies, though, and later stated that it was possibly because the ladies did not want to feel the wrath of Black social media had they come for her. (Also, yes, I know she missed some events, but Kyle Richards and Lisa Rinna have also missed events, and one complained then.) 

Beauvais’ disconnect with Kyle Richards especially was a point of contention. Things got extremely heated between the two when Richards accused Beauvais of not paying a $5,000 donation. Beauvais was rightfully upset, especially since Richards waited until the reunion to bring this up. This was problematic because there is a common stereotype that Black people do not pay their bills on time or do not have as much money as they “flaunt. For Richards to bring up the donation not being paid in a public forum feeds into that stereotype. Does this make Kyle a racist? No. Did she subconsciously feed into a microaggression? Yes. But more than anything else, it shows me that the women, especially Kyle, did not get to know Garcelle on a personal level. Had Kyle done that, regardless of the tension between the two, she probably would have reached out to Garcelle directly to eradicate the issue at hand. Now, because she did not, the conversation about her microaggression had to be had.  

Eboni K. Williams, an attorney and notable news anchor, joined RHONY as its first Black cast member. Eboni is brilliant, fashion-forward, and has a remarkable personal story. Yet, I felt like the only thing people wanted to talk about when she was announced to be on the show was her dynamic with Ramona Singer. Singer, who is known to be rather standoffish, came into controversy this past summer due to her COVID and All Lives Matter comments. While Singer did apologize, some people felt as though she was not reprimanded enough publicly. While Singer’s comments were reprehensible, it is not the responsibility of Williams to educate her. Williams has been asked constantly about her dynamic with Singer, rather than her whole dynamic with the cast itself. While the topic of race has come up this season, and personally, I think all of the women (so far) have done a great job of listening and wanting to learn. However, I do think there is something that needs to be pointed out. RHONY, for 12 years, centered around white women, so if Eboni makes a criticism or observation about her dynamic with white women—such as confronting Ramona about her comments on “the help” or sparring with Luann over supposedly implying the other ladies don’t have an education—it’s not so much a dig, more so her perspective as the only Black woman in a group with only white women. This might come as a culture shock to some of the women on the show and viewers; however, as a Black person who is sadly used to being the only Black person in a room, expressing our dismay or observations isn’t meant to start an issue, but to authentically express our feelings.   

Dr. Tiffany Moon, an anesthesiologist and entrepreneur, is the first Asian woman cast on RHOD. Tiffany’s case is a bit different from Garcelle’s and Eboni’s. Dr. Moon was cast after the controversy surrounding cast member Brandi Redmond. Redmond came under fire after a racist video of hers resurfaced of her imitating and mocking Asian women. Suddenly, when Dr. Moon was cast, there was this unspoken pressure for her to speak to Redmond about this video. Why is that Tiffany’s responsibility? Why is it that the other cast members, with the exception of D’andra Simmons, coddled Redmond instead of publicly reprimanding her for her actions? It’s apparent to me that while Dr. Moon might have been someone the producers of the show were thinking of casting already, but it wasn’t until Redmond’s video that the actual casting took place. 

Let’s make this clear. No matter how many conversations Tiffany has with Brandi, Brandi’s actions are still out there. Dr. Moon cannot be the “fix” for Redmond’s blatant racism. As a viewer, I felt terrible for Tiffany, especially with the constant microaggressions and racist remarks thrown in her face by castmate Kameron Westcott. Westcott compared Moon’s native food to dog food, a rather racist stereotype. Westcott also called Moon ignorant and implied that Moon was ignorant to her own race, and even as of recently, in a now-deleted tweet, Westcott compared a clown emoji that Moon used to “white-face”.  It would be an understatement to say that Westcott has internalized racism towards Asian people. This is what happens when you cast people of color for the sake of meeting your diversity quota.

It is not the responsibility of people of color to educate white people on racism. To assume that casting Black, Brown, and Asian people on your shows is the ultimate fix to the racism issues within your cast is incredibly ignorant. Especially because this creates an awkward atmosphere between people of color and white people who obviously have different experiences. To leave the POC that you’ve casted out to dry, and unconsciously force them to educate white people, is not okay.  This is a call for Bravo to use its resources to educate its talent on racial biases and stereotypes, especially being a network that celebrates inclusivity. Do not cast people of color just for the sake of casting them; it’s redundant and offensive. 

Images: Sophy Holland, Jonathan Zizzo, John Tsiavis / Bravo; KamWestcott / Twitter

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