Calls for commitment to anti-racism in The Bachelor franchise

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Hannah Michelle Bussa
CONTRIBUTOR

The Bachelor Diversity Campaign was formed in 2020 with a petition to improve diversity and inclusion in The Bachelor franchise. Photo courtesy of Bachelor Diversity Campaign via Instagram.

Chris Harrison’s interview with Rachel Lindsay on Extra TV last week has caught the attention of many viewers.

During the interview, Lindsay asked Harrison about allegations of racism that have surfaced about a current contestant on Matt James’ season, Rachael Kirkconnell. These allegations include photographs of her at an Antebellum-themed, or “Old South,” party dressed up in antebellum-style clothing on a plantation.

The video of the interview, which was unedited, shows Harrison repeatedly talking over Lindsay. At one point he said, “Who is Rachel Lindsay…[to] demand [an apology]?”

On the podcast “Higher Learning with Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsay,” she directly responded, “Who is Rachel Lindsay? Rachel Lindsay is a Black woman, the very person who is affected by this Rachel Kirkconnell. So, I have every right to speak out and say I’m offended.”

Alexa Rae Caves, a contestant on Season 24 of the Bachelor, reacted to the interview, “The same ‘grace’ is not given to POC who are hurt by those actions. Calling out racist b-s is not new as of 2020, and 2018 was only three years ago. It’s also not surprising coming from this franchise or this man.”

Many others began to respond to the interview. Mikayla LaShae Bartholomew put out a video on her account, @theblckchelorettes.  She also went on former Bachelor contestant Taylor Nolan’s Instagram Live to break down the problems in the interview with Harrison. A petition to get Chris Harrison removed as the host was also posted.

Shortly after, the women of the current cast of the Bachelor, 25 of whom identify as BIPOC, put out a statement. Their statement made it clear they are in solidarity with Lindsay and advocate for change alongside her.

The statement from the women of Season 25. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Vaughn via Instagram.

Then the men of Bachelorette Season 16, Tayshia Adam’s season, also put out a similar statement, supporting Lindsay and denouncing the defense of racist behavior.

The statement from the men of Season 16. Photo courtesy of Ivan Hall via Instagram.

Kirkconnell did put out an apology statement, calling her ignorance racist and that she deserves to be held accountable. Though many are waiting to see changed behavior from her, much of the focus still remains on Harrison.

This is not the first time Harrison has faced backlash for problematic comments on race. A specific NPR interview from 2015 is still fresh in the minds of many. In that interview, he said diverse casting would be bad for business and equated diversity to an issue like “saving the whales.”

Moreover, Harrison is the face of the Bachelor franchise. In 2020, many pressured the franchise to be better about race, to have more diverse casts and to actually support BIPOC cast members with mental health resources. A Bachelor Diversity Campaign was formed by fans, seeking changes in the franchise.

Tayshia Adams talked about some of these changes in the “Click Bait with Bachelor Nation” podcast’s special episode, like having a diversity team for the first time in the show’s history. She said she still has access to them for support, which is progress.

This season, with Matt James being the first Black bachelor and with a more diverse cast, was supposed to be a step in a better direction. However, the @bachelordata account has tracked the amount of screen time contestants on this season have gotten. Though 65% of the contestants are BIPOC, white contestants are still getting a majority of the screen time.

It is clear the Bachelor franchise has more work to do. It is important to make changes from the top, which includes Harrison, which is why many are calling for his removal.

Harrison initially put out an apology statement. On Saturday afternoon, he put out another statement, saying he will be stepping aside as host for a while.

In response, the Bachelor Diversity Campaign called on the Bachelor franchise to be serious about anti-racism. In their statement, they are asking for Harrison to not return to his role as host and to vet future contestants more thoroughly.

Though the Bachelor is a reality television show, the lack of racial diversity and equity parallels American society. In order to change the culture, changes must be made.

“Representation is important,” Caves said.

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