The Real Housewives of Potomac and the Tragic-Mulatto Syndrome

It’s 2016 and these light-skinned, “affluent” ladies are talking about whether or not they “identify as” black. Here’s the news: If you have a black parent, you’re black. Full stop.

The cast of The Real Housewives of Potomac
The cast of The Real Housewives of Potomac Bravo

The first time I heard the term “Jack and Jill” was in high school. A black girl l knew—let’s call her Toni—was living her best life. Her dad had an MBA from Harvard and was on the board of a bank. She got accepted early to Harvard. They owned their place in New York City. They had a summer house! Let me repeat for emphasis: They owned two places in the United States of America.

Her family did stuff like go to South Africa on spring break (which in retrospect was ridiculous; spring break is only a week and it takes two days just to get to Johannesburg, but hey, far be it from me to police other folks’ pockets). Being a noncitizen, I’ve always had a passport, but at that point, I’d only hopped on a plane to visit family members or go to chess competitions.* She was also the highest of yellas.

I say this all to say, my folk may be humble island/Harlem-projects folk, but I’ve run into an upper-crust black or two in my day—and the ladies on the new Bravo show The Real Housewives of Potomac just do not fit the bill.

I have never watched anything more befuddling than the last time I stumbled onto an extended baby-oil scene on Pornhub. The show is a sea of light brights (and Charrisse) talking about etiquette all the live-long day, but their installs are leaning more than the Tower of Pisa. Where they do that at?! How are you molded in affluence, but your tracks are just sitting on top of that new growth without a care to be found?

Furthermore, as a relatively low-maintenance gal, I don’t have very many rules in this world, but being talked down to by a woman whose eyebrows resemble a kindergartner’s Crayola project is just not my ministry. How can I possibly be shamed by anything you have to say when you decided to freehand your brow line and came off worse than an Iggy Azalea freestyle?

In this weekend’s episode, a woman unironically asked if a person’s “background was cleared to enter the estate” at a crab boil! At. A. Crab. Boil. I don’t know about y’all, but if I show up at a crab boil and someone’s raggedy Uncle Ernest isn’t manning the pot, then I’m wholly uninterested in indulging in the (nonalcoholic) fixin’s available. Bonus points if he has ever been in possession of an unregistered firearm. Cookout food is automatically better when the grill/boil master is on papers. It’s science.

All of the aforementioned are small potatoes, however, compared with the truly disconcerting conversations regarding racial identity. More than once in the two episodes I’ve seen, light-skinned “affluent” ladies earnestly have talked to other light-skinned “affluent” ladies about whether or not they “identify as” black, whether or not their progeny will be black and what that means for the seasonings they use in their chicken.

For the life of me, I struggle to understand how this is a discussion we are still having in this year of our lord and savior 2016.

Listen, Linda. If you have a black parent, you’re black. Full stop. Thems the rules. I didn’t make them; I was just born in them. This is an indisputable fact, same as the flats being the best part of the wing and Pimp C having the best verse on “International Player’s Anthem.” You have a white parent? Still black. You converted to Judaism? Fantastic! I just DM’ed Lenny Kravitz and he told me you’re still black. You believe in going to parties on time? You might be a lame … but you’re still black.

Long story short: You can choose not to identify as black as much as you want; you’re still black, though. You just sound like an obnoxious a–hole who seems to be too upset to sit at the cool table with the rest of us. And you can tell me some nonsense about how claiming black erases the reality of your white parent and not knowing where you fit in, but I guarantee that your white cousins tell their friends that they have a black cousin. You can be as light as Paula Patton, with hair as fair as Jennifer Aniston—honey, you are still as black as the bottom of a rice pan.