Creating a better world through conversation.
This Sunday, Bravo's Race in America: A Movement Not a Moment special will bring together stars, both Black and white, to have difficult but much-needed discussions about racism, police brutality, white privilege, the Black Lives Matter movement and more. E! News spoke exclusively with The Real Housewives of Potomac's Gizelle Bryant and The Real Housewives of New York City's Leah McSweeney about what it means to them to participate in the dialogue and shine a spotlight on injustices in our country.
"I was so happy that they asked me to be a part of it," Bryant tells E! News. "I feel like everybody is affected in some way, no matter if you're white or Black...We all saw what happened to George Floyd so we all are very clear [of the] things that have been going on in this country so everybody, all the Bravo-lebs, Black and white, were able to give their thoughts and feelings and tell their stories. And it's really about sharing that, from our perspective as well as what we can do so that we can really move forward and make some change. So we have some uncomfortable conversations, which, I think, viewers will really appreciate."
McSweeney says, "First of all, I was honored to be part of the conversation. I found it to be a compliment and I thought, 'Yeah OK, what can I have to offer?' But I was happy that someone white was included in this because obviously we live in a world with all different ethnicities and racism is an issue for everybody. Even if you are not a victim of it, it's still your problem and you still have to help fix it."
"If someone is doing something racist, you should not agree with it and you should call it out...Some of this stuff is so common sense to me that it's weird when someone's not an ally," McSweeney says.
"How do we not all agree that racism is terrible and that there is no room for it?" the RHONY star continued, adding, "At the end of the day, this is not a political issue, this is a moral issue, this is a human issue."
Bryant says her three teenage daughters, twins Angel and Adore, 14, and Grace, 15, have experienced racism growing up. "You know, there's the non-overt things. Like, you know my daughter goes to high school and she'll sit down and the white kids will move away from her. And they'll say, well, you know, they feel like she might steal from them because she's Black," Bryant explains. "They asked her, you know, where does she live? Of course she lives in the ghetto, because she's Black. You know, there's underlying, 'Oh, because you're Black, it's assumed that you are a thief, a criminal, and you live in poverty.' So, things like that, which aren't as in your face as someone calling you the N word, but they're still hurtful, they're still wrong. And, you know, they need to stop."
Bryant says it's gotten easier to talk to her daughters about tough topics like racism and police brutality now that they're older. "They're in high school, so they are totally well aware about the indifferences of what happens to them because of the color of their skin," the RHOP explains. "And, I mean, yeah, they're difficult conversations but they need to happen. There's no way as a mother raising my daughters, my Black daughters, that I can't be honest with them and upfront. If I'm not, then I'm setting them up for failure, like there's no way that they can make it in this country not being clearly aware of the injustices that have come before them. Now, hopefully with where we are, they, the younger generation, can really make a difference moving forward because it's got to stop at some point."
McSweeney has also had the difficult talks with her 12-year-old daughter Kier. "We had these conversations back when she was probably like 7 during the first Black Lives Matter protests, which I was really super a part of back when they first started. I talked to her years ago when, I guess she was 7 or 8, and obviously it's a little harder for a kid to understand. I had to tell her because one day she said, she was watching the news and she goes, ‘Why do so many Black people get arrested?' And I had to talk to her about how laws are unfairly made. How the criminal justice system is racist."
Kier has also witnessed racist acts at school.
"My daughter luckily has a group of multicultural, multiethnic group of friends and she had to stand up for one of her friends when they went on a school trip and someone said something racist to one of her Black friends. She stood up for her and then came home and told me. It was really troublesome," she tells E!. "So thank god Kiki and I have an open relationship and she's very mature and I can talk to her about all that stuff."
As for her own experiences with racism, Bryant says she was "100 percent" on the receiving end of discrimination growing up because of the color of her skin.
"It wasn't really until I went to college. You know, I grew up in D.C. and D.C. at the time, it's a little different now, but at the time it was a very Black city. So, I didn't see overt racism when I was growing up, and my father would talk to me about it and talk about the civil rights action that he had taken and done and the things that you know he participated in. However, it wasn't necessarily in my face until I went to college," she says. "I went to Hampton University. And that is a Black college in a white town. So, the second that we, you know me and my friends, went out and about in the city, you can best believe somebody's calling us the N word, somebody is telling us that we don't belong in the restaurant. I've walked into many restaurants in Hampton, Virginia, and was asked to either leave or not get served."
Hear more from Bryant, McSweeney and many other Bravo stars on Race in America: A Movement Not a Moment airing Sunday at 10 p.m. on Bravo.
(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family)