The upcoming Bravo special, “Race in America: A Movement Not a Moment,” brings together via video conference technology a group of people to talk about systemic racism, and topics including the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck, ignoring Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe.
In the special, protests abruptly move from an abstract subject of conversation to an immediate reality as Portland chef Gregory Gourdet’s comments are interrupted by the sound of chants coming from outside his Portland residence.
Early in “Race in America: A Movement Not a Moment, Gourdet talks about the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement recognizing all Black lives, including members of the gay and transgender communities.
As Gourdet makes his point, voices chanting, “No justice, no peace,” rise up. When another participant in the virtual discussion asks, “What is that happening in the background?” Gourdet simply says, “There’s a protest outside my window.”
Since Floyd’s death, the entertainment world has tried to express support for amplifying Black voices, in response to demands for equality and inclusion. But the Bravo special is a bit unusual in that, unlike high-profile examples such as Oprah Winfrey’s two-night “OWN Spotlight: Where Do We Go From Here?,” “Race in America: A Movement Not a Moment” features the voices not of scholars, historians, faith leaders or journalists, but rather a group of what Bravo calls “Bravolebrities.”
The group consists of white and Black participants, all veterans of reality series that air on Bravo. Portlanders know Gourdet from his work at Departure, and Bravo fans have seen him in two seasons of the cooking competition, “Top Chef.”
Joining Gourdet on the Bravo special are host Nina Parker, from the E! channel; Garcelle Beauvais, from “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”; Kandi Burruss and Todd Tucker from “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”; Gizelle Bryant from “The Real Housewives of Potomac”; Dr. Britten Cole from “Married to Medicine Los Angeles”; Toya Bush-Harris and Dr. Eugene Harris from “Married to Medicine Atlanta”; Leah McSweeney from “The Real Housewives of New York City”; Dr. Simone Whitmore from “Married to Medicine Atlanta”; Porsha Williams from “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”; and Braunwyn Windham-Burke from “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”
Though many of the participants in the Bravo special may be known more for gossipy goings-on in their reality shows than for their political views, all involved speak directly from their own personal experience about how racism has impacted their lives, and the culture that surrounds them.
Burruss talks about how Black Americans feel discriminated against not only in housing, education and other areas, but in some cases by their names, and being worried about putting an African American-sounding name on a job application.
Tucker says he grew up with friends who had names like Kareem, and when he finally asked his mother, “Why did you name me Todd?…That’s not a Black name,” his mother replied, “I wanted to give you an opportunity to get your foot in the door. I didn’t want them to judge you before you showed up.”
Gourdet recalls how his parents emigrated from Haiti to the United States in the 1960s. “They definitely experienced racism from the minute they got here,” he says, “not only being Black, but also having heavy accents.”
From a young age, Gourdet says, he was taught that it was “important that I look a certain way,” to tuck his shirt in, to have a certain haircut, and to be “prim and proper.” As his education and career brought him into white spaces, he had to learn to navigate both Black and white worlds, Gourdet says.
Burruss and Beauvais, whose acting career includes roles in “Grimm,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and the upcoming “Coming 2 America,” both discuss going into high-end stores and being treated by the staff as if they don’t belong there, and can’t afford the merchandise.
Windham-Burke says that her support for the Black Lives Matter movement has cost her friendships where she lives, in the predominantly white Newport Beach area in California. Some white friends think Windham-Burke should be more “polite,” but Windham-Burke says, “Our job is to support, not speak over, our job is to listen and learn right now. This isn’t about us. This isn’t about white people, and how we feel right now.”
On the subject of why the idea of the Black Lives Matter movement seems to scare some people, Gourdet says he’s seeing encouraging signs of change. “I live in Portland, Oregon, which is a very, very white town,” he says. “But it’s also an extremely liberal town, and extremely active town politically, and we have Blacks and whites and all people of color kind of fighting for the same causes.”
The 90-minute special, “Race in America: A Movement Not a Moment” airs at 10 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9 on Bravo.
More of our coverage:
- Gregory Gourdet, Portland chef and ‘Top Chef’ star, says news events have him feeling ‘pretty wrecked’ emotionally
— Kristi Turnquist
firstname.lastname@example.org 503-221-8227 @Kristiturnquist
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