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colorism Basketball Wives

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I watched Part I of the Basketball Wives reunion so you didn’t have to, and trust me, it was as terrible as you probably assumed it would be.

The one aspect of it that I want to briefly touch on though is not all the under-the-breath mean girl comments, Shaunie’s fake walkout moment over comments about her “kids’ father” or Feby’s lacefront, which was as bad as her deflection game. Instead, I want to talk about this whole colorism issue.

I’ve tried to avoid the conversation over the course of the season, as it wasn’t a topic actually brought up on the show, but rather, by viewers and vloggers. They believed that a lot of the treatment OG experienced and the way she was talked about was due to the fact that she is a darker woman. OG would eventually agree, and bring up her feelings at the reunion. Unfortunately, her statement that there was “a lot of colorism” was widely panned by her co-stars and some over-the-top members of the audience. They brushed off the idea, with Malaysia saying that many of the women in the cast are of a darker complexion, including Jennifer, Kristen and herself. OG would counter by accusing her of bleaching her skin, to which Malaysia responded that she needed to stop tearing other women down and playing victim and maybe things would go her way.

But I was annoyed by the whole two-minute or so conversation because really, colorism is deeper than just how many dark-skinned women you fill a cast with or dark-skinned Black men you choose to sleep with. It’s about treatment, and it is odd that OG, who is one of the darkest women to appear on the show, has been treated the least fair for offenses that don’t really compare to those of cast mates like Malaysia, Evelyn, Jackie and Tami.

Also, if we’re being honest, OG’s dark skin and features are not the same dark skin and features as Kristen, Jennifer and Malaysia’s. It’s quite apparent that the latter women have more eurocentric features that fall into appreciated American beauty standards. Not only do they have thinner noses, but, for example, Kristen has wavy hair while Jennifer has light eyes (or colored contacts — your guess is as good as mine). Though they can be annoying and flat-out mean at times, no one, in their anger, would deny these ladies at least “cute” status.

OG is darker than those women. Her nose is more broad, her lips are bigger — she is undeniably African. Not to mention, she’s also muscular from her years playing football. The soft features and lithe bodies her co-stars have (minus Malaysia) allow them to come off as more pleasant to the sight and less of a problem to the ladies, though they at times can be just as problematic, minus the verbal threats.

I don’t think colorism is always purposely practiced. I think it can show itself in more subtle, but still tricky ways that perpetrators don’t even realize. For example, it can come out in calling a darker-skinned woman who passionately calls people out for their disrespect “aggressive.” It can be in referring to her as “dirty,” or the ease with which one calls her “ugly.”

But what about OG is exactly “ugly”? While her style moves have certainly not done her justice all of the time, she looks like the type of woman many of us encounter every day. I’ve seen plenty of Nigerian, Ghanaian and many other African women who resemble her in my church alone every Sunday. And while the cast could claim they think OG’s personality is ugly, that’s clearly not what Feby or Evelyn or the folks on Twitter mean when they call her that. They mean she is not visually appealing. So when you’re not textbook sexy, and add to that that you don’t take people’s crap and can back up what you bark, you’re too much too handle. Your presence is grimaced at and your own people call you unattractive without a second thought. It’s too many strikes, even in a cast full of lighter, sometimes racially ambiguous women who often behave more violent, threatening and malicious.

Whether you are dead set on colorism not being a problem on the show or you think it has been all up and through this season, it’s hard to deny that there have been some troublesome comments that hit different than the usual spats and disagreements the women have. They have gone out of their way, at every stop, to make it clear that they believe OG to be manly, unsightly and animalistic. To be honest, a lot of the pervasive language this time around was more unsettling than a good chunk of the table, bottle, glass and drink-throwing we’ve had to witness over the years. It just didn’t feel right.

Not all hope is lost, though! Perhaps a lesson will be learned from all of this based on the backlash that’s been received online. According to the preview for next week’s Part II finale, they will try and address the colorism issue again, which should be a welcomed conversation that time around.

But oh wait, the only problem with that is that it will be between Shaunie and reunion host Marc Lamont Hill only.  That’s like Don Lemon talking to Donald Trump about exposing the painful ways he’s been impacted by racism.  If all she is going to do is get yet another platform to deny, deny, deny people’s claims of colorism while OG continues to be talked over in back rooms, they can save it. Just throw the whole show away…

To see how Twitter felt about the colorism conversation that never really was on Part I of the reunion, hit the flip:

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