By writing this article, I will have to make a confession. My name is Jacqueline, and I am a fan of the Bachelor.
Yes, it is my guilty pleasure, and you can judge me if you want, but I love it. The crazier the contestants – the better. In regards to the show’s racial makeup, The Bachelor and I have always had a love-hate relationship. But low and behold today it was announced today that The Bachelor would finally have a black lead. Current season favorite Rachel has been selected to be the next Bachelorette. As a long time fan of the show, and Rachel I might add, I was pleased but was not doing cartwheels upon hearing this news. I LOVE Rachel she is fun, beautiful, and brilliant. After winning the first impression rose in week one, she has clearly been the one to beat. Though I have never been a particular fan of Nick Viall’s, who’s the only endorsement seems to be the fact that he makes good television and he likes a broad range of women. Having Nick as the bachelor has been our first, best chance at having a non-white Bachelorette. Nick has made it clear in the least douchey way possible that he likes all types of women and the typical bleached blonde future soccer mom, is not the only type of woman he finds attractive. In choosing eight non-white women preliminary contestants (The Bachelor’s preferences weigh heavily in the candidate selection process), the odds were in our favor. So for nothing else, I will thank him for that.
Unfortunately, that is where the thanks shall end.
The Bachelor is littered with numerous instances of awkward, painful or downright racist moments for the black contestants. With today’s announcement, Bachelor producers are clearly eager for all of us to give them cookies for being progressive. I am so sorry to inform them, but this is a minuscule and tragically late gesture. So, Mikey, you can stop tooting your ‘old’ horn.
It would take five years of casting with more melanin than Black Panther, just to begin to tip the scales. Just for the sake of balance, while everyone else is rushing to praise The Bachelor producers, I would like take a moment and count down the five worst moments from “Black Bachelor and Bachelorette History.
And yes, I am remorseful to relive these during Black History Month but I gotta keep it 100, lest we all forget.
Honorable Mention – Y’all got beat by a Bachelor Parody. Though not a “Bachelor” moment, per say, I feel like this one counts. Before The Bachelor manned up and locked down a black Bachelor or Bachelorette, Lifetime’s dark parody UNreal did it first. And they did it with style. In its sophomore season, the dramedy cast a black suitor and let the cameras roll. Though an all white writers room, the creators did not write on false assumptions. They reached out to Black men and women, asked them about their realities in modern dating, and used that information to guide the narrative. The effort showed because despite being fictional, the storylines were poignant and topical. Unlike The Bachelor, they did not assume that the audience wasn’t ready or didn’t want to watch it.
5) Marshana & The Suit Cases. Look every season has a villain, and A 27-year-old fashion designer Marshana from Brooklyn was clearly not very popular in the “London Calling” house. Despite her lack of popularity, she did survive a two-on-one date in week four, much to her castmates dismay. Matt Grant’s choice to keep Marshana apparently irritated the rest of the women in the house. After a double-date between Marshana, and a house fav Holly, her suitcase was dramatically removed because she had failed to win the rose. The anger & shock from the other girls as they watch their favorite’s bags being rolled away was a moment right out of Mean Girls. None of them could fathom the idea that Matt would CHOOSE Marshana. One girl, the eventual winner Shayna, actually doubled over and started crying over the suitcase drama.
For clarity – she was not crying over the loss of Holly it was for the fact that Marshana was coming back. “I just don’t see how he’s attracted to her,” she added later, and you don’t need to read between the lines to catch that veiled racism. Though eliminated in week 8 Marshana remained, until this year, the only black contestant to place in the final six on either The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. She got into it with just about everyone in the house, but she did make it further than anyone else, so there’s that.
4) When we just didn’t have any – It is embarrassing that for seven seasons they could not find single black contestant worthy of adding to the show. In the early days of The Bachelor, the producers seemed to make an effort to have at least one black contestant. However, in addition to the offensive tokenism, it was clear that did not mean much as 59% of black contestants are eliminated by week 2. So by Jason Messisk’s season, they just gave up entirely. Apparently, if the Bachelor or Bachelorette made it clear they did not want a black contestant; they left it at that. Look I don’t know who is to blame on this one. If you cast narrow-minded leads, then you get a fine choice of suitors, simple.
Hell, if it were me I’d wanna to see every shape, size, color and creed opening night but as SNL accurately spoofed most Bachelors are Bland Man.
3) The Blackies comment – Numerous Black contestants have complained of overt and subtle racism from fellow cast-mates and at times the producers. Most often they are ostracized in the house or dismissed as a stereotype– Being the token brother or the angry black girl. Never was this more evident than in Marquel’s season with Andi Dorfman. In week four Marquel learns a cast-mate commented on Andi’s choice to include Black contestants in the first rose ceremony. Another contestant, JJ tells Marquel that during the first rose ceremony, Andrew said, ‘Oh, she gave it to the two blackies.’
Andrew’s noncommittal answer and apparent embarrassment when confronted are priceless.
You can clearly tell he said it, but rather than be labeled a racist he just denies it. There’s redemption however in the form of Marquel’s quiet yet emotional rebuke.”Sometimes no matter how you treat a person, they have this idea of you,” Marquel said as he got choked up. ” I hate getting emotional over it but…look, it’s crazy to think the first thing people are going to recognize about me is ‘OK, he’s a black guy.’ … It would be nice not to be seen as, ‘Hey, this is the black guy.’ But I guess that’s what it is.” I get emotional just thinking about it. Andrew was sent home the next week by the way, so there’s that.
2) Jubilee and the microaggressive soccer moms. The tension between Marshana and her cast-mates was clear very early on. As much as I would like to say it was one-sided Marshana got her licks in, too. On last year’s Bachelor, however, it seemed Jubilee’s sole offense was being an introvert and slightly awkward. As a fellow awkward black girl, I identified with Jubilee right away. Moreover, as a Cellist/War Veteran, I don’t find it a stretch that she wouldn’t have much in common with contestants who’s listed CowGirl and Chicken Enthusiast as their occupations. These differences all came to a head right before Jubilee’s one-on-one date. Bachelor Ben Higgins selected Jubilee for a one-on-one date. During their evening together she revealed her painful past — she was adopted after her entire family died — and shared her offbeat, self-effacing sense of humor. Ben apparently taken by her, confessed just how much he wanted to get to know her better. It was evident at that moment his affection was growing. The same affection was not growing with Jubilee’s fellow housemates. Before the date, because she was clearly awkward about the attention of a one-on-one, Jubilee joked about not wanting to go, and the other bachelorettes were unaccountably livid. They further fumed when Jubilee came back with a rose instead of being sent packing.
The remainder of the episode was a parade of obvious dog-whistles. Comments like Ben wants to have a wife that will be friends with all the other soccer moms and racially charged insults. She was termed aggressive, accused of flaunting her rose and of thinking she was queen bee. Lauren H. cast it as Jubilee “separating” herself from the other girls.
Yeah, Okay, girl.
In the end, Ben did not choose Jubilee, but she was exonerated by Twitter, which was a small but mighty victory.
1) SEE YOU IN COURT! – Seriously, I cannot imagine how without an ounce of irony producer Mike Fliess can be ready to pat himself on the back about Rachel. First of all, she is brilliant, from a semi-famous family, and she has been an audience and Nick favorite from week one. You would have to be insane not to make her the next Bachelorette. She’s not the only black contestant to have fan support; several other non-white contestants have had fan campaigns to make them the next Bachelor and Bachelorette (including the aforementioned Marquel and Jubilee), It is today, however, with a contestant too perfect for words, Mikey is ready to do the right thing. But there shall not be a victory. Mike Fliess’ celebration on this moment is like George Wallace celebrating being the first governor to preside over integration at the University of Alabama.
You were the one who kept them out!
You kept them out so well that two black applicants took him and ABC to court. Or did that just slip his mind?
Just five years ago Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson brought a lawsuit, alleging that the roles of the Bachelor and Bachelorette on the hit reality series have failed to feature non-white cast members and that civil rights law “plainly prohibits whites from refusing to contract with African Americans because of their race.” The case was thrown out First Amendment reasons. Mostly ABC can make the show however they want to, but even the preceding judge acknowledged ABC’s culpability and praised the plaintiff’s aim. He wrote, The plaintiffs’ goals here are laudable: they seek to support the social acceptance of interracial relationships, to eradicate outdated racial taboos, and to encourage television networks not to perpetuate outdated racial stereotypes. It seems that ABC are finally ready to step up to the plate, and I’m glad, but this is not causing for celebration. Fliess apparently unaware that as executive producer HE could have cast a black lead anytime he wanted, joked about the show’s lack of racial diversity. Saying one that contestant, was 1/16 Native American but don’t quote him cause he wasn’t sure. He followed that by saying that there were no other black leads because none “presented themselves.”
Again, okay girl, whatever.
So with Rachel as The Bachelorette I can barely muster cautious optimism. If Bachelor history tells us anything; there will likely be several racially embarrassing moments during Rachel’s season. Just because we have a black lead, it does not guarantee the show will treat her with the dignity or respect she deserves.
To be honest, they don’t do that with any of the contestants regardless of race so in that area at least; there is equality.
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Jacqueline is the Director of Festivals and Conventions for @BlackGirlNerds and a film correspondent for @RottenTomatoes. She is also a Gamer, Cinephile, Theater-kid, internet addict, and lover of all things geek. Follow her on Twitter @ThatJacqueline