The Real Housewives of Potomac cast members have been getting major backlash this season, specifically the alleged mean-girls of the bunch, Gizelle Bryant and Robyn Dixon. While they have been known to tag-team their co-stars, this season, viewers say their behavior is more vicious. Moreso, they’ve been accused of colorism. But Bryant doesn’t care about the criticism or colorism claims.
What is colorism?
The National Coalition of Christians and Jews defines colorism as: “A practice of discrimination by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin. This practice is a product of racism in the United States, in that it upholds the white standards of beauty and benefits white people in the institutions of oppression (media, medical world, etc.).”
Colorism is embedded in racism and can be traced back to slavery. During such times, lighter-skinned slaves were treated better than darker-skinned slaves, even being granted “special privileges.” Some included being welcomed in the main house by their slave masters, better job opportunities, and being fed better food. On the other hand, the darker-skinned slaves were seemingly given harsher punishments and worked more difficult labor. Lighter-skinned slaves were often favored because they were products of rape by their slave masters.
Moving into modern times, the “paper bag test” was often utilized in Black spaces and the hiring of Black employees and impacted hiring practices. There’s a known history of darker-skinned Black people being viewed as a threat – physically and metaphorically – and the images we see on screen impact such. Reality television is not exempt. And in recent seasons of RHOP, the cast has been given specific examples regarding how colorism exists on the show.
The ‘RHOP’ cast has been accused of colorism
Candiace Dillard Bassett has been the most vocal about colorism on the show. She’s been accused of hitting below the belt during verbal spats with her co-stars, but her reactions are not uncommon. As she said during the Season 6 reunion special while confronted by Cohen over her behavior on the show and Twitter, “Welcome to the stage.” This is what Housewives are infamous for.
But Dillard Bassett says she is continuously reprimanded, while her lighter-skinned co-stars and other Bravolebrities of a lighter skin tone get a pass. In an interview with The Daily Beast, she spoke on how colorism is clear on the show. She explained:
When I first joined this cast and would get into whatever disagreement with my cast, my first inclination was not to go right to colorism. I didn’t want to believe that right away. But it just became so clear when the audience wants to vilify me. And let’s say someone like Ashley is responding or reacting in a very similar way. Somehow, when I do it, it’s aggressive. And when Ashley does it, it’s, you know…she’s praised for being messy. And I am maligned and banished to the basement. And I will be clear in saying that I believe that most of the colorism that we experience comes from an audience space. I don’t believe that my cast is purposely or willingly wielding any power against us.
Gizelle Bryant doesn’t care about the criticism
Bryant recently appeared on the Sherri show alongside her green-eyed BFF – Dixon. The subject of colorism was broached, with Shepherd asking the two women: “People, they love you, but then some people have been criticizing you. They say it’s bullying or colorism. What would you say to that?”
Bryant said firmly that she pays the online chatter no mind. She told Shepherd: “You know, everybody’s entitled to their own opinions of us. But that’s social media. I always feel like social media does not pay us. So I don’t pay attention to it. The minute it pays us, I’ll be all in it. Until then, I just… it’s just foolishness.”
Despite such, the conversation surrounding colorism in the franchise continues. Andy Cohen briefly addressed it during the Season 5 and 6 reunion specials. Hopefully, there’s a deeper dive this forthcoming season.