Matt James Becomes The First Black Bachelor In The Show’s History

As much as we love talking about The Bachelor, it’s no secret that the franchise has some major issues when it comes to diversity. As it’s been discussed far and wide, The Bachelor has never done an adequate job of promoting diversity and racial equality across its shows. From a lack of diversity on screen (just one Black lead in FORTY seasons), to repeatedly casting people with a history of insensitive social media behavior, these issues have been around for a long time, and ABC is finally starting to addressing them, beginning with their announcement today for the next Bachelor.

Earlier this week, a Bachelor Diversity Campaign was launched, along with a petition that called on ABC and Warner Bros. to take 13 specific actions to address the issues within the franchise. The petition has garnered over 85,000 signatures in less than a week, and today demand number one has officially been met. On Friday morning, Matt James was announced as the next Bachelor, becoming the first Black man to lead the show in its 25-season run.

 

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It’s official…your next Bachelor is @mattjames919!

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This morning, Matt James appeared on Good Morning Americawhere he was introduced as the next Bachelor. James, who is best friends with Tyler Cameron, was initially cast as a contestant on Clare Crawley’s allegedly-still-happening season of The Bachelorette, but after they butted heads publicly on Twitter, maybe it’s for the best that he’ll be skipping that.

Of course, it’s exciting to see a Black man at the helm of The Bachelor. It took way too long to arrive at this moment, and for once, ABC did the right thing. But make no mistake, if the network is serious about addressing the issues within the franchise, this needs to be the beginning of the changes. In a statement, Karey Burke, the President of ABC Entertainment, said, “We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing on screen are representative of the world we live in…we will continue to take action with regards to diversity issues on this franchise.” Burke added, “we feel privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor.”

In an interview for GMA, Rachel Lindsay cautioned against celebrating ABC for putting “a band-aid” over the larger issues, saying that she wants to see larger changes like producers of color and leads that are “interested in dating outside of their race.”  In his GMA interview, Matt James agreed that his casting is “a step in the right direction,” and that he hopes to be the first of many Black men in his position.

Bachelor Nation spoke out loud and clear, and ABC was forced to listen. But there are still 12 other points on that petition that also should be addressed. Will we get a diverse cast? Will ABC commit to thoroughly vetting their contestants, so we don’t have known racists appearing on their shows? Will they commit to fostering an actual conversation around diversity on their shows? Hopefully, yes! But we don’t know any of those things yet, so today’s announcement should be seen as an important milestone, not the final destination. That’s the whole thing about being an active ally—there is no final destination, but you can always keep going in the right direction.

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Images: ABC/Craig Sjodinbachelorabc / Instagram; gma / Twitter