A New Petition Is Demanding More Diversity In The ‘Bachelor’ Franchise

If you’ve ever paid attention to the Bachelor, even a little bit, chances are you’ve seen a whole lot of white people. In 18 years and 40 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, only once has a Black person been cast as the season lead. It’s an upsetting statistic, but one that points to a greater pattern of complicity in the franchise as a whole. Now, with conversations about race taking center stage in every corner of our lives, it feels like ABC can’t figuratively (or literally, IDK how they work) put their hands over their ears and yell “LALALA” about The Bachelor‘s longstanding lack of diversity anymore.

It’s not like issues with diversity on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette haven’t come up before. Actually, Chris Harrison, the host of all the Bachelor shows, has repeatedly been asked about diversity in the franchise, and some of his comments have been quite troubling. In 2017, when describing Rachel Lindsay’s contestants, he remarked, “It’s a very diverse cast, but at the same time, very professional.” This comment raised eyebrows at the time, with many pointing out that he almost certainly wouldn’t make the same comment about a white cast. Last year, when speaking to a group of USC journalism students about diversity on The Bachelor, he said, “You have to take it as it comes … because then it’s organic and then it feels right,” adding that you can’t “force things.” Just last month in a radio interview, he acknowledged that the franchise has lagged on diversity, but insisted that “we’ve done much better in the last few seasons for sure.”

Whether or not you buy what Chris said in May, the last two weeks have been a disappointing time to be a Bachelor fan. The franchise’s official social media accounts have remained completely silent about the Black Lives Matter movement, and the wider conversation on racial justice. Chris Harrison has posted nothing but a black square last Tuesday. Mike Fleiss has shown his support for BLM on Twitter, but hasn’t tied that in to any issues in his own franchise. Last week, Rachel Lindsay, the only Black lead in Bachelor history, slammed the lack of diversity in the franchise, calling it “embarrassing,” and noting that a Black person is nearly as likely to be elected President of the United States as they are to be chosen as the Bachelor.

And on Monday, The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons – Ever!, the franchise’s solution to coronavirus production delays, premiered. This eight episode special was supposed to be a celebration of the franchise’s greatest moments, but given the current climate, it instead served as a disturbing reminder that The Bachelor has always had a race problem. Kay Brown and Chris Burns, who host The Betchelor podcast, did some calculations, and in Monday night’s three-h0ur premiere (seriously, why are these shows so long?), Black people were shown speaking on screen for only 14 SECONDS. Think about that. 14 seconds. If you don’t think this is a problem, then you’re part of the problem.

But if there’s ever been a time to fix these problems, it’s right now. Over the weekend, a Bachelor Diversity Campaign Instagram account was launched, and on Monday, they launched a petition calling on ABC and Warner Bros. to commit to concrete actions to combat racism in the Bachelor franchise. The petition outlines 13 specific points, starting with casting a Black lead for the next season of The Bachelor. Considering most of us wanted Mike Johnson last season, this one should be easy for ABC. The petition also asks for a commitment that each season will have at least 35% BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)  contestants.

In addition to specific 0n-screen measures, like a “zero-tolerance policy for racism on-air” and giving “equitable screen time to BIPOC contestants,” the petition extends to off-screen measures that will help to combat racial inequality in the franchise as a whole. These include hiring a BIPOC diversity consultant to oversee all aspects of production, vetting potential contestants more thoroughly (to avoid situations like this), and “providing resources to help viewers learn more about BIPOC stories and organizations supporting BIPOC causes.” Really, none of these things should even be controversial, so I hope ABC and Warner Bros. do the right thing.

The final point in the petition, which I imagine might cause some discomfort, asks that ABC and Warner Bros. “Issue a public statement apologizing for enabling systemic racism within the franchise,” along with establishing a specific plan to do better moving forward. People usually don’t like admitting that they’ve been a part of the problem, but in this case, it seems like the only way that true change and growth can begin. In less than a day, over 50,000 people have signed the petition, and it has gained support from many Bachelor alums, including Rachel Lindsay, Tyler Cameron, Ben Higgins, and Kaitlyn Bristowe. After years of frustration and disappointment at The Bachelor’s handling of race, it’s time for some meaningful change.

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Images: ABC/John Fleenor; betchelorpod / Twitter; bachdiversity / Instagram