I grew up in a household of proud black women of all hues: light-skinned and dark-skinned. Skinny and overweight. Double Ds and flat chests. Tall and short. Coarse and Creole hair. Wide-shouldered and pole thin. Loud and shy. Hysterical and dry-witted. Fashionable and plain. A casual glance at my family reunion photos on both sides of my family features every last one of these women.
These women are happily single or married. They are in situation-ships or relationships. They have childhood crushes or high school sweethearts. They met their partners in college or thought college kids were “snobs.” They have hand-sewn wedding dresses or name-plated limousines. They have itty bitty wedding rings or flash multiple karats. They are some characters. And I always equated relationships with the black women who I grew up observing.
It’s one of the reasons it took me so long to watch “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” I’m not opposed to dating shows though. I remember Chuck Woolery interviewing black singles on the ’80s show “Love Connection.” Nowadays you can find me watching “Black Love,” or Will Packer’s “Ready to Love” and “Put a Ring On It.” I even watched Netflix’s “Too Hot to Handle,” as ridiculous as it was. But I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how “The Bachelorette” was on for 12 seasons before a black woman was the lead.
I didn’t even think about the show until I got to a newsroom that was full of loyal “Bachelor” fans. Not only were these writers and editors into the show. They were so hardcore that they compiled regular photo galleries, debated about every episode and took bets on who would win. When my bosses, a Guatemalan woman and a white woman, asked me to join in, I politely passed. They both looked confused at the audacity of someone not watching the show and urged me to do so. I had no desire.
I watched this happen for a couple of seasons. They never missed an episode and constantly talked about old episodes and upcoming ones. This was their thing. But when Rachel Lindsay was chosen as the first black leading lady in season 13 of “The Bachelorette,” I heard not a word. No galleries. No discussion. No bets. Meanwhile, I’d started tuning in and realized it was a pretty decent show. I kept waiting on all the hoopla again about Season 13 of “The Bachelorette,” but tumbleweed was louder than this same group about this season.
Rachel Lindsay was my first go at it. I watched the entire season quietly. I had my suspicions about why these two women who were my bosses (and also real-life friends that planned weddings together and were pregnant around the same time) never assigned galleries and entertainment posts and bets about Rachel Lindsey. But as soon as “The Bachelorette” completed, I looked at our group Google Sheet, where new posts were added for me to edit. Almost the millisecond the show ended in August 7, 2017 and “Bachelor in Paradise” started on August 14, 2017, here came the posts again — and the conversation.
There’d been many other triggering points at that job — the photo gallery making fun of white people wearing dreadlocks (I insisted that one never be available to the public considering the wording was harsher on the locks than the cultural appropriation), the snarky comment from one of the sports writers asking “who cares” about Harriet Tubman making it to a $20 bill and then the repeated one-on-one talks from my Guatemalan boss about how my “personality didn’t match the culture of this group.” (If you think all minorities are allies, think again.)
But what finally made me snap and speak up was a photo gallery on “the world’s most beautiful face” — that clearly excluded any black women’s features or pigmentation. But the same Hispanic boss knew Selena Gomez made the cut on this list, so she was cool with the entire study. Her rationale was, “Well, we’re not saying only these women are beautiful. We’re just creating a gallery about it.” I told her I was going to write an op-ed about how much I disagreed with this “scientific study.” She made a point of asking me if she could read it first. I told her she could read it after it was published, competitive publication or not.
Recommended Read: “Biracial and (not) proud ~ When your skinfolk don’t want to be claimed”
Work memories ruin new season of ‘The Bachelor’
As much as I want to see what’s up with Matt James, the leading biracial man on “The Bachelor” this season, the entire series leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth. It’s not just the work memories of the show. It’s the fact that it took 25 seasons for the show-runners to decide black people were worth being leads on the show. And even when they are, make sure they’re biracial (black and white) like him or Tayshia Adams (black and Mexican). Never mind that Adams was chosen like leftovers after Clare Crawley left her own season of “The Bachelorette.”
Quite frankly, if Matt James and Tayshia Adams would’ve been in its earlier show history, I may have given the show a shot. Now? It feels too little, too late, even after I watched all season with Rachel Lindsay (and liked Peter Kraus far more than her final choice).
Without even watching the show, I can all but guarantee the final couple will be interracial. The idea that two black people could complete the season is a bit much for this franchise — and I’m saying this as a black woman who has dated interracially and is usually indifferent to black men who do. It’s not that I’m not happy that they finally made it onto the show. There’s just this thought I can’t shake that there will be a group of people that still aren’t ready to see black women or black men as the ones to be fawned over. In turn, they’ll just act like that season isn’t happening — until the next white lead comes along.
Would you like to receive Shamontiel’s Weekly Newsletter via MailChimp? Sign up today!