A Dance of Race and Social Grace on 'The Real Housewives of D.C.'

The Bravo reality TV show is full of awkward moments where Stacie, the sole black character on a show that takes place in a city that is 55 percent African American, smiles uncomfortably.

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REALLY?????!!!!!!! Lets get this straight. ... I take the mickey out of my own country too! You can never take life too seriously. ... If you ever lose your sense of humor you may as well throw the towel in.

I LOVE AMERICA!!! I despise racism. I bring my girls up this way, with the beliefs I hope [are] for the future for us all -- equality on every level.

Yet it is Mary who rushed to make a full-throated defense of Cat against the horrible (and currently imagined) charge of racism -- without every truly considering how Cat's actions could have been perceived or why Stacie might have considered the possibility in the first place. She writes:

I feel a strong need to make my belief very clear that my dear Cat has not exhibited one racist bone in her petite little body in all the times I have ever been with her. Quite the contrary! Cat is one of the most lovely, kind, generous, encouraging and honest people I know and I believe she sees character, not color. I am extremely upset and rather disturbed that this perceived sense of racial tension on the show has taken on a life of its own. Personally speaking, I can easily say that I experienced nothing remotely close in any scene or conversation that was racially driven that would cause any tension of any sorts [...]

Of course. While Cat's behavior appears to be motivated more by the culture shock between her British sensibilities and American reality, the fact that Mary was far more interested in exonerating Cat than understanding how racism operates is telling. It is these types of situations that lead to that complicated dance I refer to above. Even though Stacie herself had concluded that Cat's bad behavior was not motivated by racism, the merest perception of a racial motivation threw everyone else into a tizzy. And when the chips were down, her "girlfriend" didn't really see a need to understand Stacie's side or back her up.

Stacie's smile on the show is beginning to represent something a bit more than good will. It's the balm she uses to keep the peace.

She smiles when someone says something clueless and borderline offensive, because the graceful thing to do is to assume they didn't mean it that way.

She smiles when her friends remain silent, leaving her to deal with potentially racist situations, because no one wants to be The Angry Black Woman. (And why is it that TABW is always making an appearance on reality TV, anyway?)

She smiles while describing the effort it takes to interact as one of the only black women in her social circles, knowing that those she speaks to will have the privilege of never experiencing what she does.

She smiles because ultimately, it's best to let the small stuff slide and save her energy for the larger battles.