Let me just say this first: I don’t like reality TV. This isn’t even me trying to sound cultured or “above” being entertained.It’s just not my jam. But the latest version of Bravo’s Real Housewives is set in Potomac, a wealthy suburb of Washington, and the show has already caused a bit of outrage in the two weeks it’s been on (it premiered on January 17), but not for any reason you’d imagine.
No, someone hasn’t been caught cheating. The drama has been about race and class, which many have already discussed on social media. The tension erupted in this past week’s episode on Sunday when the discussion expanded to being black and Jewish, which, naturally, caught my eye.
Katie Rost is by far the most interesting person on the show so far, and kind of the lone wolf of the group in some ways: She’s biracial, Jewish, and a single mother of three. She converted to Judaism with her mother (her dad is Jewish) when she was young.
In Sunday’s episode, Rost was planning a Jewish naming ceremony for her twin daughters–and the ceremony wasn’t exactly kicking off to a stellar start. When she met with a rabbi to talk details, Katie admitted to not reading Hebrew and only attending synagogue on the High Holidays. The rabbi didn’t seem too pleased. But despite this, she stressed how important it was for her to instill the same values in her kids that she had growing up.
But this wasn’t the last of the tension. Katie’s identity as black and Jewish came up when fellow housewives Gizelle Bryant and Robin Dixon questioned the ability to be both. Both women seemed skeptical about her Jewish identity–they had never met someone who identified as black and Jewish before. It’s especially nuanced and complicated because the women are primarily light skinned black women, and they discussed how they often have to defend their blackness.
While there wasn’t an incredibly thorough discussion on behalf of race and religious identity (shocking for reality TV, I know), it definitely started a crucial dialogue, even if unintentionally. Which is important to participate in, regardless of where the dialogue starts. Many people don’t mean to offend or hurt others with their comments, as I’m sure Bryant and Dixon didn’t, but ignorance is just as destructive.
While I never thought I’d appreciate a Real Housewives show for raising awareness on tough topics such as race, I’m pretty glad I didn’t miss this one.