When 'The Bachelor' franchise and race collide

Posted June 21

Race stepped into the forefront of "The Bachelor" franchise this week.

Actually, if we're being honest, race has been the token rose on "The Bachelor" and its spinoff shows since its 2002 debut.

But this week, challenges African Americans frequently encounter converged on "Bachelor" sets -- a reality franchise that has long been criticized for a lack of diversity among its casts.

A black woman broke under the pressure of representing her ethnicity, a black man's reputation hung in the balance and there have been accusations of racism.

In other words, a typical day-in-the-life of Black America.

On Monday's episode of "The Bachlorette," Rachel Lindsay, the first African-American woman -- or man -- to lead a season in the history of "The Bachelor" franchise, revealed the weight of responsibility she feels.

"The pressures I feel about being a black woman and what that is and how...I don't even want to talk about it," Lindsay said with tears welling. "I get pressure from so many different ways being in this position."

It was moment that touched many women of color who watch the show.

This happened as the production company behind "Bachelor in Paradise" was investigating allegations of misconduct involving cast members Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson. Though producers never specified exactly what took place, the fact that Jackson is a black man and Olympios a white women left some feeling leery.

"The racist stereotype persists that black men are criminal, and that their sexuality poses a threat to white women," Sesali Bowen wrote in a piece about the scandal for Refinery 29. "It's a trope that black communities still have to actively resist in our interactions with white people."

Warner Bros., which produces "Bachelor in Paradise," released a statement Tuesday stating an investigation into the incident found no evidence of misconduct.

Still, damage has been done. Jackson said last week he had been defamed by false accusations and lost his job as a result.

Related: 'Bachelor in Paradise' investigation ends, Warner Bros. concludes no misconduct

The "Paradise" controversy taking place within a television franchise some view as one of the whitest ever, made it more prominent.

Despite adding more contestants of color within "The Bachelor's" ranks -- and casting Hispanic American Juan Pablo Galavis as Season 18's bachelor -- the perception remains the franchise has a race problem.

The Lifetime series UnREAL, which is a dramatized version of a dating reality show much like "The Bachelor," satirized the issue in an episode where a contestant named Shamiqua is deemed not "wife material" for their "suitor" because she's black.

"It is not my fault that America's racist, people," the producer on the show, played by Constance Zimmer, said. "Get a new girl out."

Casting Lindsay as this season's "Bachelorette" has yet to create a "post-racial" shift in the franchise.

For her part, Lindsay has said ethnicity wouldn't factor into her choices on the show. But there was no escaping discussion about it.

"Bachelorette" contestant Lee Garrett, one of the men competing for Lindsay's heart, has been accused of racism.

A series of racially-charged tweets, allegedly from Garrett, have surfaced since the season's debut. On Monday's episode of "The Bachelorette," contestant Dean Unglert pointed out that Garrett, who is white, might have a problem with people who don't look like him.

"The only people that I've seen Lee pick fights with have been not the people that he's used to seeing on a daily basis from a cultural perspective," Unglert said.

Garrett has not responded to the accusations, but viewers have.

When a producer asked Unglert what he meant by his comments, the contestant gave voice to the unspoken.

"You know exactly what I mean when I say that," he said."The longer Lee sticks around, the more everyone will be aware of his intolerance."

When it comes to prejudice, Bachelor Nation may be a lot like the rest of nation.


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