A new campaign is calling for popular reality show The Bachelor to address its diversity failings, after it was pointed out that just one black lead, Rachel Lindsay, has starred across 40 seasons in 18 years.
The majority of contestants who appear on the show are also predominantly white. Show creator Mike Fleiss claimed that “for whatever reason, [black and POC contestants] don’t come forward” during the casting process.
The latest season of The Bachelorette was scheduled to begin filming in March, but was put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It will star 39-year-old white hairstylist Clare Crawley.
The petition, which had attracted more than 35,000 signatures at the time of writing, is calling for systematic change, the hiring of a diversity consultant, a minimum of 33 per cent BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) cast every season, and a public apology for enabling racism.
“We believe that the national conversation should be focused on black lives, but in this moment where diversity issues have been brought to the forefront, our support has to extend beyond a symbolic gesture or a single social media post,” Ria Ali, a 32-year-old lawyer from Massachusetts who helped form the campaign, said in a statement.
“The Bachelor is something in our daily lives that we spend time with and enjoy, and we feel we have to make that place as diverse, inclusive and reflective of the principles of anti-racism that we are marching for and donating to.”
Several cast members from various seasons have shared the petition on their own social media accounts, including Lindsay, Tyler Cameron, Seinne Fleming, Dustin Kendrick, Bibiana Julian, Jubilee Sharpe, Olivia Caridi, Onyeka Ehie, Alayah Benevidez, Marcus Grodd, Lauren Burnham, Mykenna Dorn and Marquel Martin.
Lindsay also said she would not return to The Bachelor if it failed to address its issues on race.
In a post on her blog, Honestly Rach, she addressed the issues she had experienced while on the show and pointed out her history of urging the franchise to do better.
“I knew that I wanted to be a trailblazer in this franchise to diversify the lead role, to diversify the contestants trying out and casted for the show, and to diversify the audience watching this show,” she wrote.
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“Well, I am sad to say that after almost four years in this franchise, we still don’t have the diversity that this show needs, and that our audience deserves.”
Responding to questions as to why she has not been more vocal on the subject, Lindsay said she had been caught between not wanting to “bite the hand that feeds you”, but also feeling strongly about not “aiding and abetting problematic behaviour”.
“This is the reason I have come to the conclusion that if changes are not made on the inside and outside of the franchise, I will dissociate myself from it,” she said.
“I am tired of asking for change and my requests have been ineffective. These changes have to extend beyond casting a lead of colour. The whole franchise needs a diversity makeover”
Both the ABC Network and Warner Brothers have shared posts expressing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We believe in liberty and justice for all,” ABC said on 31 May. “We stand with our Black colleagues, creators, performers, storytellers, viewers, and every ally of the Black community against systemic racism, racial injustice, senseless violence and oppression. Your voice matters. Black lives matter.”
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