The Bachelor Tries to Talk About Racism Without Saying Racism

The Bachelor Tries to Talk About Racism Without Saying Racism

Monday night’s Women Tell All reunion episode of The Bachelor went on about the same as the rest of the season. The show revealed nothing fascinating, or of substance, which was just the way Peter likes it. The women spent more time discussing Champagne Gate than they did railing against Peter for trying to bring Hannah B back into the house. But this time, instead of keeping things light and frothy, host Chris Harrison brought a special guest on stage to take the lead on a serious topic.

Rachel Lindsay, the first black bachelorette in the show’s history, joined Harrison to discuss the online harassment that most contestants had faced after filming. As Harrison looked into the camera and defined bullying and harassment, the camera made quick cuts to other contestants of color crying. It was clear The Bachelor was trying to address racist comments that had been pointed at women of color like Shiann, Sydney, Maurissa, and Tammy, without using the word “racism.” Missing from the intercuts of crying women was Victoria F, who was present at the taping where not a single person mentioned her photoshoot wearing “White Lives Matter” apparel. Lindsay then went on to read some of the comments found on the social media pages of the women. While the show did not make clear which contestants received which comments, the presence of racial slurs drew a clear line between those who had been bullied for being on the show and those who were targeted strictly because of their skin color. Some women recounted how they’d received death threats, while Alexa, a woman of color who was cut early in the show shared how she had been attacked online and called ugly for wearing her hair naturally.

For the entire segment, not a single person used the word racism. There were allusions to the concept like Sydney, commenting on how she’d been treated poorly in her youth because of the color of her skin, but when all was said and done, everything was chalked up to run of the mill online harassment. Harrison offered no comfort, no promise of a bachelor nation initiative to fight online harassment, and he took no responsibility for the show’s many years of underlying racism.

If the conversation was strictly meant to be about bullying and online harassment, anyone could have led the discussion. Producers could have chosen any woman on the stage or brought back any older contestants to read mean comments out loud and cry. But they specifically brought back one of the few people in their history who added a different dimension to the issue while still failing to address the issue at all. You’ve got to name the beast if you want to kill it. But maybe, asking The Bachelor to address its own shortcomings is too tall an order for a show that was too scared to invite back Kelley Flanagan, the only woman who actually challenged Peter.

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