When ‘The Bachelor’ franchise and race collide

(CNN)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 its lack of diversity.
    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 no evidence of misconduct was found during its investigation into the incident.
    Still, Jackson feels damage has been done. Last week, he said he had been defamed by false accusations and claims he lost his job as a result.
    The “Paradise” controversy may have been heightened by the fact it took place within an overwhelmingly white franchise.
    Despite the addition of more contestants of color — and the casting of Juan Pablo Galavis, who is Hispanic American, as Season 18’s “Bachelor” — the perception remains the shows have a race problem.
    The Lifetime series “UnREAL,” which is a dramatized version of a dating reality show much like “The Bachelor,” parodied 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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