It's Past Time for "The Bachelor" to Put an End to Its Racist Controversies

Photo Courtesy: Craig Sjoden/Walt Disney Television/Getty Images

For almost two decades, The Bachelor has kept millions of people watching and talking about the romance, drama and fantasy of finding your soulmate on reality TV — even though most of the show’s relationships don’t last. Its success has also resulted in several spinoffs, including The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise and The Bachelor Winter Games. But now, the show has people talking for a very different reason: rampant racism that’s come to light through contestant behavior, host comments and other controversial incidents.

Despite the franchise’s success, fans and even contestants have spoken out about the show's questionable history, including its notable lack of diversity, ongoing harassment and a variety of issues relating to gender norms and beauty standards. In response to these claims and in a long-overdue move, the show finally cast its first Black lead for 2021’s season, which sees real estate broker Matt James bring all the talent, charm and brains that fans expect from the lead star. The casting of Black contestants Rachel Lindsay and Tayshia Adams on various seasons of The Bachelorette could be viewed as another step in the direction of correcting the franchise’s long-standing issues with race. However, the show still has a lot of work to do to fully reflect the makeup of modern relationships in a modern world.

These small steps toward progress haven’t meant as much in the face of the show’s backward leaps when it comes to racist controversies. Now, in the middle of James’ season, The Bachelor is finding itself embroiled in a "firestorm" once again after it came to light that contestant Rachael Kirkconnell participated in a "plantation-themed" formal in college and liked racist posts on social media — and host Chris Harrison defended her actions. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to trust the producers’ claims about making positive changes when their actions say something different, and viewers are tiring of the show’s excuses. It’s time for the franchise to uphold lasting efforts to combat racism and other issues if it wants a chance at redeeming itself before the final rose disappears.