The Real Housewives of New York City
It is the fifth episode of this season, which in observance of the Eileen Davidson Accords means all new cast members are officially eligible for judgement. That means I finally get to say it publicly: I like Eboni. There is something that I often heard about Jackie Robinson (which may or may not be true, considering how we learn about history and race in this country), that he wasn’t necessarily the best Black baseball player, but he was the one with the best temperament to handle being the man who would integrate the team. I feel this is also true of Eboni. It was going to take someone like her to teach Luann, Ramona, and others how to unravel their years of privileged and unquestioned unconscious racial bias. She’s not only strong and unafraid to take these women on in a fight, she’s also intelligent, articulate, and patient in the way that she talks about race and how it affects her in a group of white women.
There are sure to be plenty of people who watch the show who say, “Oh, she makes everything about race. Now we’re always talking about race because she’s on.” Well, this is only the second time we’ve had a woman of color on the show and the first time we’ve had a Black woman, so of course race is going to come up, especially when we have women as socially clumsy and prone to misstatement as Ramona Singer. As a Black woman in America, especially navigating what is a primarily white milieu, of course everything is going to come down to race with Eboni, because that is our existence. Those who say she “makes everything about race” are the people who are lucky enough that they don’t necessarily have to think about race and how it affects their everyday feelings and circumstances.
Obviously the best instance of all of this is the fight that Eboni has with Luann and Ramona at the end of the episode, particularly with Luann. The fight starts at the beginning of the episode when Leah’s talking about dicks and sex at Ramona’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s Pumpkin Spice Latte at Soul Cycle Ugg Boots and Felt Fedoras Dinner Party Celebrating the Year in Basicness. (Before you want to call it “cheugy” remember that basic and cheugy are two different things, Gen Xer.) Ramona says, “I don’t feel comfortable talking about sex. ‘Is this dick small. Is this dick big. I like dick. Who has a W*P.’” What I love the most about this is of course Ramona censored the swear word out of “wet [redacted] pussy” and also that she wants us to spell it like Jews spell G*d, giving it both the reverence and scorn that she thinks it deserves.
Ramona leaves the room because she’s uncomfortable and heads up her Dynasty staircase to the upper level and says, “What ever happened to class and elegance? Where did it all go?” I don’t know, Ramona. Maybe it went to Colombia where you literally shit on the floor and then smeared it around with an espadrille. I totally get why Leah is upset with Ramona and her hypocrisy. She doesn’t want anyone to say “vagina” but she is also the first person to leave a party at her own house so that she can go to another party to try to get laid. Ramona won’t talk about any of her sexual experiences but she’s also the same person who goes into orgiastic undulations to try to connect to the guitar player that comes over Luann’s house who looks like Danny Trejo’s distant cousin.
Ramona doesn’t really want Leah to be prim and proper, she just wants to be able to control what Leah says and when. It’s sort of like the conversations she has with Heather about talking about her on the podcast. She doesn’t want Heather to mention her because “she doesn’t want to be in the press” but you know that Ramona wants to be in the press as long as it’s something favorable to her that she planted. It’s not really about the sex, it’s about the control.
I don’t really agree with the way that Leah handles it, though, which is very aggressive and in her face. Ramona and Leah just like to push each other’s buttons. They’re two alphas in a death grip for the control of the group and Leah, being new, young, and a little bit crazy, definitely has the upper hand in this dog fight. I laughed when Leah said, “You’re a ho, you’re a ho, you’re a ho, you’re all hoes,” as she stormed off to go sit in the car in the air conditioning and listen to her Spotify playlists on her headphones like the unruly teen she was acting like. That’s not going to get Ramona to change. Actually, nothing is going to get Ramona to change, so the both of them just need to learn how to annoy each other without getting too annoyed.
Leah is right about one thing, which is Ramona bringing up her daughter Avery and how she behaves had no place in this fight. I think Ramona was trying to say that Leah should behave like “other young people” like her daughter and be respectable and not talk about sex. But of course Ramona doesn’t think her daughter talks about sex because what teenage girl is gonna be like “I can take a huge D” to her mother? None. Also, Leah may be younger than Ramona, but she is a mother herself. Equating Leah to Avery — Ramona’s Platonic ideal of a well-raised daughter — is not the thing. This isn’t comparing apples to oranges, it’s like comparing apples to Chinese satellites that are crashing to earth and might just land on a country but we’re kind of unsure so let’s just hope for the best.
All of this is preamble to the fight that Eboni then wades into the middle of. After Leah leaves, she tells Luann and Ramona that this seems to be a discussion not about propriety but one about class. Luann says, “It’s not about class, it’s about education.” Eboni answers that she is the most educated person at the table and she knows that because she Googled all of her other cast members, and amen Eboni because if I was joining the show I not only would have done that but I would have hired Jill Zarin’s private investigator to make a dossier on every single one of those bitches.
Luann misinterprets what Eboni says and thinks Eboni means that she is not educated and she defends herself. She also thinks Eboni was saying she was smarter than Luann. That is not the case. She is saying if they are basing this on education then Eboni, the person with the most degrees at the table, is, in fact, the most educated. Luann elucidates that she thinks education is also how many languages a person speaks, how well rounded they are, and where they have traveled. Yes, that is not education, that is class. That is exactly Eboni’s point.
While Luann escalates this argument by misinterpreting Eboni and misremembering that she said it wasn’t about class it was about education, she then accuses Eboni, who is only trying to defend herself and speak the truth, of screaming. “I’m not screaming,” Ebobi responds. “Your white fragility is killing me right now.” Luann then tells her not to make it about race. Well, Eboni can’t help making it about race. Luann is reacting differently to Eboni, telling her not to scream, than she did to Leah, who literally screamed at them and then stormed off to go sit in the car.
Eboni raises this point and says that Leah behaved like that and no one said anything to her. Eboni is not nearly as worked up and they call her “angry” and say that she’s “screaming,” which is not only putting her into an “angry Black woman” stereotype, but is a display of dominance by the white women over a Black woman who they feel allowed to rebuke while they allow Leah to behave aggressively unchecked.
Heather Thompson is sitting at the end of the table barely intervening because she wants back on the show. Ramona and Luann are squaring off against Leah, and shockingly the only other person at the table who gets it and is on Eboni’s side is Sonja Tremont Morgan of the United Negro College Fund Morgans. “She doesn’t seem angry to me,” Sonja says about the argument. “She seems like she’s able to use her words.” That is exactly it. Eboni, as a trained and practiced lawyer, can argue circles around these women. As reality television practitioners, they’re used to their arguments being adjudicated by force and violence. Whoever can be the strongest and the loudest wins. But not with Eboni. She will show you the flaws in your logic. She will remember exactly what you said and use it to hang you. And she does all this as an educated Black woman, and putting these white ladies in their places makes them feel fragile. Get it now, Luann?
She does not. Luann tells her to leave and adds that what Eboni said was offensive to them. How, exactly? Eboni just stated facts and defended herself with them; she was just going off of your own arguments. Luann, who clearly lost, uses the one thing she has left in her arsenal, her status as a homeowner, to kick Eboni out. “You will not police my feelings,” Eboni says, strong to the core. “You tried to shame a woman who is sexually free and you used education to do it. It’s trash.” Luann gets in one last retort. “You should know the word.” What? She just called the one Black woman on the cast “trash”? On camera? In 2021? After wearing blackface on television? In this economy? In front of the Catholic Jesus? On the East End of Long Island? Under a constantly falling Chinese satellite?
As Jill Zarin got out of an SUV down the lane and walked down the gravel driveway, through the back gate, across the back yard where all of the ladies — Ramona included — just stared at the dick of an attractive man under the false auspices of life drawing, past all the drawings they made of that man, most of which made him look like a well-hung Slender Man, toward the table, and right to Luann’s side. Jill handed her one of Aaron Burr’s antique guns and told Luann to point it to her own head. “You loaded it yourself,” Jill said with a chuckle that sounded like a scream.