I have been a fan of the Bachelor franchise since the very beginning. When I fall in love, I fall hard and quick, so I can relate to instant connections and dramatic tears when it's all over. I am here for over the top dates, declarations of being here for the right reasons, the overuse of the word "journey" and the drama between contestants who are all dating the same person. For the past 15 years, most of this has been done by white folks.
Now I root for any and every black girl, but there is something about Rachel that makes me a little more protective of her. She's beautiful, funny, entertaining and the best Bachelorette the show has ever seen. If you look at the friendships that she has been able to build with the girls from her season of the Bachelor, where she came in 3rd, it's clear that she has a loyal squad which I think speaks volumes about her personality. She could easily be one of my girlfriends from college...and having her on my screen took away from my whole viewing experience.
This blog is not about what Rachel offered the show. She is engaging and can carry you through every episode with her one liners and side eyes the way any other Bachelorette only wishes they could. (The only one that comes close is Ali Fedatowsky because of her call out of the dude with the girlfriend literally caused him to run away from her on crutches.) One of the reasons I watch reality TV is because it provides me an escape. I have known that I can consistently tune into this show on Monday nights and watch white folks make a fool of themselves, all while tuning out the rest of the world. I couldn't do that with this Bachelorette because having a Black Bachelorette bought up most of the issues that I tried to escape.
I am not saying that The Bachelor franchise has not made a debacle of race relations over the years because they certainly have. I specifically remember, years ago, when there were bi-racial girls on the show who confronted a Black girl for saying they weren't "real Black girls." This is a bullshit thing to say, and this is not a conversation I want to see moderated by a white dude for a primarily white viewing audience.
I walk around Black and woman all day. I have been so fortunate to be raised and affirmed in a way that makes me feel proud of that. There is no one I would rather be than Mary and Bill's daughter, a Black girl, who podcasts with the homie Shavonda. Still, there are times when I must confess, that as a carefree Black girl, I become careful when confronted by onslaughts of white gazes. Not in a way that makes me doubt myself but in a way that makes me say "let me get out of here as quickly as I can" so that I can breathe freely without being hyper aware of anti-Blackness in all its forms.
All of that to say, Rachel as the Bachelorette did not provide the same escape to me. I was conscious of the nuanced incidents that involved race every episode. Every Black man she sent home came with a small eye roll and a sigh on my part. It got to the point where I was counting Black men vs. white men still in the running. Here's the contradiction; while I don't come to my reality television for in-depth racial commentary, it was beyond frustrating to see how poorly handled race was. It means something when men "confess" that they have never dated a Black woman before. The colorblind version of the world white people pretend to live in was pushed hard this season. It turned Rachel into an anomaly instead of a representation of so many of my homegirls that she is. It was evident what ABC producers were going for in choosing their first black bachelorette. Wanted: someone that white women could relate to concerning class (she's a lawyer, her dad is a judge) and Black women could relate to her because she represented the mainstream version of #blackgirlmagic that means that she has created success for herself through a white lense. This is not at all a criticism of Rachel because the same thing could be said of me, it's the acknowledgment that many of us don't extend the magical label to those outside of what we deem to be respectable (another post for another time).
I don't believe for one minute that the folks over at ABC did not know that Lee was a racist and they used his presence to push the envelope, which might have made good TV but triggered me every time he was on screen. He spent the bulk of his time antagonizing the black contestants and using barely a dog whistle to call them aggressive while outright lying on them. I could have flipped tables when the Black men used their time and energy to educate him when we know he just went home to flip on Fox News and make sure his "Make America Great Again" hat was on tight. The notion that one conversation with Black folks makes someone see the error in their ways is beyond laughable. At best he now believes he can co-sign his racism with the obligatory "I have black friends." And I had to watch this when I should have been watching fairy tale romance and forgetting that 45 is President, global warming is coming for us all, and my generation's version of wealth is bread that is cooked twice with fruit on top.
I won't even try to tune out to Bachelor In Paradise because the echoes through the history of white women falsely accusing Black men of rape won't even allow me to enjoy it. I hate that the presence of a diverse cast took away from this experience for me, mainly because I thoroughly enjoyed Rachel. Even though she was made for TV perfect, you can see the backlash against her now because she didn't pick who the masses wanted her to. I wanted her to pick the other guy, but now I can't add to the chorus of white voices who are questioning her intelligence, her class, and her logic. Damn ABC, now I gotta reclaim my time.
Random observation: Eric needs to always have that beard.
We see you boo...