It looks like I wrote about colourism on the Real Housewives one week too early. Given the drama that went down on the last episode, there’s still a lot left to discuss.
After the episode aired, and after having her mentions flooded by outraged viewers, Robyn Dixon chatted with TODAY.com about what’s unfolded on the season so far and what’s left to come. But her apparent reframing of events didn’t sit well with the audience and social media users, already upset with her over her conduct on the show, and for the most part, saw right through her.
On Sunday’s episode, the girls were in Miami for a getaway to celebrate Karen Huger’s birthday. During a dinner at BarOne, Mia recalls a conversation she had with Peter Thomas, owner of the bar and ex-husband of RHOA’s Cynthia Bailey. Peter and Mia had been on the phone earlier and he told her he had “beef” with Wendy.
His beef stems from a pending business arrangement with Wendy. Weeks before the trip, the two discussed going into business together to open a Nigerian lounge. Despite Peter being one of the messiest men ever involved in the franchise, he knows a thing or two about the hospitality industry. He alleged Wendy was dodging him and never let him know she was coming to “his” city. But during a confessional, Wendy showed receipts that clarified she was the one waiting on a response from him.
At the dinner table, Mia started verbally attacking Wendy for not letting Peter know she was coming to Miami, suggesting she was a shady business partner. Wendy quickly gathered Mia up by letting her know she doesn’t argue with men – and that if Peter had any issues with her, he needed to take it up with her husband. Feeling slightly embarrassed over Wendy’s sensible responses to her unnecessary attacks, Mia threw a drink at Wendy and all hell broke loose.
Throwing drinks is commonplace on the Real Housewives. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Moments like these are kind of the reason some of us watch. But considering this particular show’s history with physical altercations and accusations of colourism among the cast and the production team, it certainly carried a bit more weight, and there was anticipation over how the rest of the women would react to what was happening.
The reaction most noteworthy was Robyn Dixon’s, who quickly pulled out her phone and began recording the incident, as if she were watching a parking lot brawl. She laughed and took jabs alongside Gizelle Bryant, who seemed to be offering her support to Mia during the conversation about Peter’s beef with Wendy. Robyn suggested to TODAY.com that the feud “really wasn’t that big of a deal” as it was happening – but I think I speak on behalf of everyone watching when I say … yes the hell it was.
The allegations of colourism come (or continue, rather) because of the double standard that exists for darker-skinned women on the show – and in real life. Watching Wendy keep her composure was a nail-biting experience, because I couldn’t imagine getting pushed that far and not having a physical reaction. But darker-skinned women, sadly, live with the knowledge that the consequences are very different for them, and often more severe because of their skin tone. It’s one of the reasons I was under the impression Monique Samuels had been fired from the show in my last post – but a reader pointed out that she actually quit the franchise because the environment was so toxic. Good for her for knowing her limits.
As things were ramping up on Sunday’s episode, Robyn told Wendy she was “antagonizing” Mia. But what part of verbally defending yourself when your character is under attack is antagonizing? Especially when the other party is on the verge of what could easily be considered physical assault? But of course, Robyn doesn’t see it that way.
“My thing with Wendy was I really wanted her to stop because I didn’t want her to do something that she would regret that jeopardized her job or her reputation,” she said to the outlet.
“I explained to her that you have more to lose than Mia...When I’m telling her ‘you’re being antagonistic,’ I’m telling her that because I’m saying you’re gonna make her do something that you don’t want her to do, because you don’t want to be caught up in it. So that was my whole point, and I’m upset that they didn’t really express that,” she continued.
I’ve described my issues with production before, even going so far as to hold them responsible for these women to have to face an angry mob of viewers' colourism accusations. But after Sunday’s episode, I can’t support that idea anymore. I really feel like Robyn and Gizelle have a lot of unchecked bias and privilege and they need to work that out. ASAP.
This situation is not unlike instances I’ve seen play out in viral videos, arrests, or just everyday experiences that happen to be caught on camera. I can’t count the amount of videos I’ve watched where a white person unloads on a Black person, or non-white person more generally, throwing the first punch, slap or hit, but when the other person responds, they become the victim.
That’s the thing with colourism. It automatically overexaggerates and inaccurately measures the level of aggression or danger of the person with darker skin. They are immediately perceived to be a bigger threat than the person with lighter skin. There was one moment in particular that really highlighted the disparity between how light and dark-skinned women on the show are treated. And it was when Wendy drew a parallel between the drink-throwing incident, and the fight that took place two seasons ago with Monique Samuels and Candiace Dilliard.
In season five, Robyn was hellbent on letting Monique know that she was wrong for the role she played in that fight, while others seemed to think Candiace had said and done enough to warrant Monique’s visceral reaction. But this season, she’s been caught on camera instructing her castmates to “fight or shut up.” Talk about antagonizing.
Mia went on to hit Wendy with her purse. Despite watching the show in my living room, I felt like I heard a thunderous applause when Wendy finally called Robyn and Gizelle out, saying she had no desire to be around “Mia sympathizers” or “people who condone violence”. She let them know they were being hypocritical, considering their change in tune between this situation and the dispute with Monique and Candiace. But again, Robyn doesn’t see it like that. She told TODAY.com she didn’t “understand” the comparison, and that the two instances were “two totally different things.”
As a fair-skinned person myself who is biracial, I’ve had a lot of unlearning to do. In recent years, I’ve realized how much privilege I walk around with because of my light skin and racial ambiguity, heightened depending on the style of my hair. I think there’s a misconception that light-skinned Black women have that they can’t be racist or colourist because they themselves are Black. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. And the debate isn’t so much whether women like Gizelle and Robyn are racist, but whether they are colourist – and based on the events we’ve seen unfold and how they’ve reacted to them, it’s becoming more and more difficult to defend them against claims that they are.