Monday, April 23, 2012

Racism on the Bachelor Has Been Obvious for Years


I have only been a casual watcher of the Bachelor. I watch mainly to see how materialistic the contestants are. One thing that has always stood out was the lack of Black men. At least now I know that I have not been the only one who has noticed. Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, two prospective contestants, brought a lawsuit last week, charging that the show is in fact racist.

One reason that I always assumed that this was an issue is the lack of Black men who are financially wealthy & single. For those who may not be aware of the constant theme of the show - it's basically about a group of 1-2 dozen barbie doll women (often gold diggers of a variety of races) who compete for the affection of a rich or well-to-do white guy (much like the dating scene in America....except it's just a microcosm of that larger scene). Perhaps the producers had trouble filling slots with Black men because it was hard to find enough who met the shows financial requirements. But then the lack of Black men in the lead role as "Bachelor" ended up being a reoccurring theme year after year.... surely after 10 years they could have found a well-to-do Black guy. So after a while it became clear that this could not have been the only issue.

I believe the real issue has more to do with the uncomfortable topic of interracial relationships. The producers of the show probably don't want to see an interracial pairing. They also don't want a situation where racism pops up during production. They are afraid of a situation where non-black female contestants have an unfavorable reaction or may reject a Black Bachelor because of racial differences. They want to avoid a real "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner 2.0" played out in front of a national TV audience, with a rawness that no one will expect. That's one fear... Another fear may be that an interracial pairing may come up that may turn out to be successful (or successful based on silly scripted reality show standards...as successful as those pairings can really be). The most likely scenario would be Black men being rejected in the ugliest ways imaginable.

These fears are backed up in the OKCupid report that came out a few years ago pointing out the role or racial prejudice in online dating. I also talked about my experiences with this problem in the commentary "White Men Only". This is how I know...that the plaintiffs in this case are on to something. One of the last ways to really reveal racism is through the dating scene. All of the pretending to love everyone B.S. washes away...and people are exposed for what they really are. Whatever racist feelings that people have buried within themselves are often brought to the surface through the context of dating. The producers at ABC are aware of this...and they are scared to death. I also imagine that a Black male lead probably wouldn't bring the high ratings...for the same reasons.

The network probably wants to avoid the public backlash from either scenario. But I think having a Black lead and exposing these racist feelings within the contestants would finally shed light on one of the last bastions of blatant racism in this Country. People don't know how common this is... but racism in dating is huge, even when we have more Americans than ever saying that they are more comfortable with interracial relationships. Non-Black families bullying their daughters not to bring home a Black guy is an issue in households across the Country. It's a behind closed doors discussion that probably takes place in more households than anyone wants to admit. It is especially big in Asian-American families. Bringing home an Asian man is ok. Bringing home a white man is almost encouraged and seen as a sign of "success". Even an Hispanic or East Indian may be fine. But bringing home a Black man usually falls within "unforgivable....you will be disowned by the family" territory.

Unfortunately this case may be hard to win. The case may hinge on the right of a private business (a network and TV show) to exercise a certain level of discrimination or preference to fit the theme of its programming. Networks have a right to show programming that they believe viewers would like to see and that would maximize (within reason) its ability to gain good ratings and earn money through advertising. Unlike a case where public accommodations are involved, there is no inherent legal right to appear on a television program owned by a private business. On the other hand, the show is billed as a reality program...and the lack of diversity with the lead characters is not a reflection of reality in this Country -- I think this may be a legitimate point by the plaintiffs.

Of course I hope the plaintiffs win.

5 comments:

StillaPanther2 said...

Brother...we have been in America 400 plus years....it's long past time for us to have our own programs so we don't constantly Beg some other race to provide us with air time. Be careful what we beg for....we might get it. Think about if you have Black males.....who do you think they will pick....look at NBA, NFL, and majority of entertainers......you know where I am going. That will only devalue the Black women of color brown more....just to have the Black male on a show. The white man's ice is colder. 66 StillaPanther2.

Andre said...

I'm with Panther on this one, AI. The original intent for BET (before it became the embarrassment it is today) was to provide a balancing outlet for black music and entertainment when MTV wasn't offering it any validation. They wound up failing miserably, as we all know, but their original model was solid. Black folks have enough consumer power to just do our own thing if we so chose (look at...sigh...Tyler Perry).

But the bigger question has to be: why would anybody, let alone self-respecting black men, want to be on this show in the first place? I'm surprised that you - being the cultural critic you are - would co-sign on this one, even if there is a racial angle to this story.

Brian E. said...

Andre,

I'm not arguing one way or the other on the question of quality. I am able to see that as a separate issue. I personally think the Bachelor is garbage... the women are, for the most part, shallow gold diggers...without much to offer in terms of brains, intelligent conversation or characteristics that would indicate to me that they would be good mothers to my children. But that's not the question.

As bad as the Bachelor and similar programs are.... Black men (and yes...black women too, lol) should be able to partake in those programs if they so choose.

As you have already conceded.... BET turned out to be a giant failure... so why not ABC.

I don't believe in segregating races when it comes to dating anyway. You know i'm Pro-Interracial Dating, lol. People should be able to choose who they want... The show should be a reflection of modern American culture IMO.

There have been other dating shows where the producers were not afraid of the racial taboo (or at least they were not so frightened that they put an obvious ban on one particular group). On these programs... race did not seem to be such a big deal. "Love in the Wild" on NBC mixes races...has Black men/women. MTV (Empty V) mixes races. And a current program on Lifetime TV, "Love for Sail", mixes races with no problem at all.

Anonymous said...

Also, the women on The Bachelor are horny as well. And then there's beefy White men who look old for their age in The Bachelorette.

Love In The Wild and Love For Sail, very realistic. The Bachelor/Bachelorette, no way. Nothing wrong with diversity on the show. Looks more exciting and entertaining but if people are just going to strictly choose their own race and not other races, then they're going to be miserable for the rest of their lives.

Anonymous said...

I'd say you should post a petition on change.org explaining the details of diversifying the Bachelor/Bachelorette shows as far as cast and leads go. And don't forget to tell them to include mixed race people too.