“Salons need to integrate,” Mary Schmidt Amons declares. “We have different hair, different needs, but why do we need to be in a different salon?”
It’s a simple enough question—the sort that passes for a philosophical dilemma when the new world of reality TV ponders the old scar of American racism. But Amons does not live in any ordinary corner of televisual reality. Her discourse on salon segregation takes place during the premiere of The Real Housewives of D.C., which makes her a character in a particularly special sort of reality show: The Washington reality show.
Which means that the tragedy of separate-but-equal hair-care has to be put in special context. National context. Capital context. Obama-era context! So she hastens to add that the salon status quo is especially tragic now, in this city, “with our new administration, with the beautiful couple we have leading our country…”
Amons trails off. A mother of five, she seems so uncomfortable around black people that she apparently cannot speak to her sole African-American castmate without exclaiming “Girlfriend” in a ghetto accent. She is drunk. Some part of her brain is probably telling her mouth that she sounds incredibly stupid. Stacie Scott Turner, the aforementioned black housewife, will not look her in the eye.
If the Real Housewives—debuting this week on Bravo—were taking place in any other town, Amons would be presented for what she is: A rich dunce with minimal sense of personal dignity. Her analogues during the show’s New York season weren’t cast as representatives of Wall Street; her Atlantan sisters weren’t portrayed as keys to understanding the corporate culture of Coca-Cola’s new-South hometown.