The First Black ‘Bachelor’
It only took 25 (thousand) seasons.
The word ‘first’ is an intoxicating distraction.
‘First’ aptly describes some initial experience, or trailblazing encounter, of which the world has never seen the likes of before. Its usage warrants praise, an elusive achievement to aspire towards. Yet, too often, ‘first’ comes far too late.
The first Black lead of ABC’s ‘The Bachelor’, Matt James, follows in the footsteps of 24 white cisgender leads. His recent promotion has certainly brought up the question, why now?
To anyone following the news, or who has scrolled through a sea of black squares, the answer might appear blatantly obvious. ABC has long been criticized for its lack of diversity, and recently has been the subject of this petition demanding a BIPOC Bachelor. Needless to say, the pressure surmounted any executive concerns, resulting in James’ promotion.
James himself recently told Good Morning America “I don’t think it’s ever the wrong time to do the right thing.”
— The Bachelor (@BachelorABC) June 12, 2020
Critics, however, were far less convinced, noting a history of racism perpetuated on every level of the show’s production, from the writing room to the contestants.
Just a reminder that The Bachelor had a discrimination lawsuit in 2012 where they argued they had a First Amendment right to EXCLUDE people of color as a creative decision in the process of casting shows. https://t.co/osIwLvuCZS
— Nina Parker (@MzGossipGirl) June 12, 2020
One such critic is none other than Rachel L. Lindsay, the first Black lead on ‘The Bachelorette’ in 2017 (and only Black lead to this day). “I was hoping when I came on to be a trailblazer for that and to increase diversity in the audience that watches it,” she continues, “but in the last three years there really haven’t been changes made.”
James has responded to Lindsay’s comments, stating “When Rachel speaks, we listen. She has a very important voice in all this, being the first black woman, person of color, to have a lead.” Both note the need for more structural change, and, as Lindsay describes, “not putting a Band-Aid over the situation.”
While this particular ‘first’ may strike a chord as disingenuous—and rightfully so—James hopes this is the “first foot forward”.
— Christina Watkins (@CWatkinsWDSU) June 12, 2020