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“The Bachelor” screwed mostly about black women

Craig Sjodin / ABC Season 25 of The Bachelor is what happens when an organization makes a real effort to use diversity for the purpose of optics, but not to actually be inclusive and empathetic. And ultimately it screwed black women. I initially had no intention of watching the final season of the reality dating show until my best friend told me it was going to be his first black bachelor. I caught clips from the season with Rachel Lindsay, the first Black Bachelorette, and watched the Bachelorette season 16 finale when Tayshia Adams, who identifies as Black and Latina, took over. But I hadn’t seen the OG version of the show in years – probably since high school. For one thing, it felt like the same formula over and over again. Then the spin-off Bachelor in Paradise wiped out every integrity the franchise ever had. More importantly, there was just no diversity. I felt like if I was on the show – as a black woman – I would probably be forgotten without serious thought. Regardless of how I looked despite my credentials, and how deep the conversations with the person were or not, I figured I just wasn’t going to be the type to make it through to the end of Bachelor owes Matt James and Rachel Lindsay to Matt James as Seeing Bachelor was like an awakening. It was like the franchise was finally opening up to new possibilities – the prospect of becoming more sophisticated and diverse. Having a black man at the center of his flagship series signaled mainstream acceptance that black love is powerful and would destroy ugly stereotypes about black family and relationships in the media. Rather than proving Bachelor Nation’s inclusiveness, the season ultimately showed how, in the words of Malcolm X, the black is the most disregarded person in America. A season that should have been historic in a positive sense finally revealed how backward the franchise really is. As the season started, I had heard rumors about candidate Rachael Kirkconnell’s racist past. Photos and allegations were made in a number of gossip blogs. However, I tried to be optimistic. Maybe it wasn’t true. Maybe Matt wouldn’t choose her in the end. Maybe … I was hopeful. When it was officially announced that Rachael was seen in racist costume, liked questionable posts on social media, and attended an antebellum-themed party in 2018, I wasn’t too surprised given my previous suspicions. And then I heard the news that Matt had decided to give her his last rose. At that point, I stopped watching The Bachelor. It became a mockery to the women of color who attended. The Black American mantra “twice as good to get half as far” played a role in my head. No matter what the black women did, how great they were, how great and deep the conversations with Matt were, it didn’t matter. In the end, he still chose the racist white lady. Yes, the show is rubbish because it didn’t put the work in and screened its candidates the way they should be. There was no way Rachael should have attended season 25. However, I am really appalled by Matt James. This man was supposedly looking for the love of his life. For the duration of the show, all he did was go out with these women. And during that time he never had a deep conversation with Rachael about race and social policy? It seems so lazy and hypocritical, considering he had conversations like this with the women of color on the show when they bonded over trauma stories. While these women showed Matt their scars and relived the emotional pain of what it meant to be a minority in this country, he never thought of sharing his experience with Rachael – a woman he had preferred to dozens of other women. A woman he proposed to propose. A woman he was considering raising a family with. If Rachel’s business hadn’t made the rounds on the internet and gone mainstream news, I’m not sure Matt would have ever found out. Their relationship wasn’t deep enough emotionally to ask this woman why she was dressed up for an Old South party in a photo. And if he found out, he might even have stayed if it hadn’t been for the resulting public backlash and damage to his ego. After watching that season of The Bachelor, I was reminded of why I opted out in the first place: there is no place for black women to be seen as winners in the franchise. Women with color got significantly less airtime than white women, and then all of the finalists actually selected as Matt’s Top 5 were either Interracial or Rachael. In the context of colorism, this gives a clear picture that a black woman who does not come from a mixed household is not worth winning the bachelor’s heart. Even Rachel Lindsay, the first black Bachelorette, was bullied from social media after having a heated conversation about racism with the show host Chris Harrison when photos of Rachael Kirkconnell surfaced. As the season progressed, it immediately became clear that it was black women presented only as a secondary choice – regardless of the amount of emotional work they were doing. It played in racist tropes that black women were unattractive and disregarded, mulatto women were more acceptable but still not ideal, and being a white woman was the very epitome of beauty. It is clear that this caustic mindset still has a place in society because the Bachelor has shown it in real time. My hope was that black women would be seen. We are only considered beautiful when we are light enough, our hair is long enough or we look exotic enough. America still doesn’t seem to accept us for our natural beauty. I trusted that in his blackness, Matt James would be sure enough that he would embrace the black beauty instead of running away from it. I wasn’t exactly confident that he would choose a black woman to get his last rose, but I certainly didn’t expect a bona fide racist to win him over. 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