Last year, when Entertainment Weekly asked Mike Fleiss, who created The Bachelor and its spinoff, The Bachelorette, if there would ever be a non-white Bachelor or Bachelorette, he told them “I think Ashley is 1/16th Cherokee Indian, but I cannot confirm. But that is my suspicion! We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism. Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there! We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, it’s just that for whatever reason, they don’t come forward. I wish they would.” Given that sort of flip thinking, it’s not surprising that in 23 seasons of both shows, they’ve never found an African-American man or woman willing to go through a courtship charade on national television and actually make a commitment to get married at the end of it.
And with that track record, I’m not exactly shocked that ABC will get hit with a class-action lawsuit against the franchise tomorrow, alleging that it practices racial discrimination. There’s an extent to which I’m sort of discouraged by the idea that this could be the way we end up getting more people of color on television, that the goal is to crack trashy reality television before prestige drama or comedy. But as I’ve written before, the right to be undignified, even ridiculous, without having your behavior reflect on every group that you’re a member of is perhaps the truest sign of equality. Maybe this is just a way of skipping ahead in the process.