COLUMN: Finally, a black Bachelorette

It’s no secret that “The Bachelor” franchise has a race problem. In the combined 33 seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” the only title star with any claim to diversity has been the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Venezuelan Juan Pablo Galavis.

That is about to change, however, as producers announced last week that the upcoming season of “The Bachelorette” will star Rachel Lindsay, a black lawyer from Texas.

The decision to cast a person of color in the title position — or indeed, to allow a person of color to make it beyond episode three of the show — is long overdue. Generally speaking, people of color are few and far between when it comes to the reality presented by “The Bachelor” producers. Latinas are all but absent from the show, as are Asian contestants. Black contestants are often featured on the show, usually present as two or three numbers of each season’s cast, but almost all are eliminated before the halfway point, if not sooner.

Of course, there have been a few exceptions. Catherine Guidici, who is of Filipino descent, won Sean Lowe’s 2013 season of “The Bachelor.” Caila Quinn, who is also part Filipino, was a popular finalist in Ben Higgins’ 2016 season, but was controversially passed over for the title of The Bachelorette. In Andi Dorfman’s 2014 season of “The Bachelorette,” fan favorite Marquel Martin, who is black, made it just past the halfway mark before being eliminated. After his elimination, Martin was not considered for the next Bachelor. Instead the opportunity was given to Chris Soules, a white farmer from Iowa whose most interesting characteristic was that his hometown didn’t even have a Walmart.

“The Bachelor” has never been and likely never will be known for progressive viewpoints. After all, 25 women competing to marry a man they’ve never met isn’t exactly a triumph for modern feminism. But the fact that it’s taken producers this long to invest in the stories of people of color is disgraceful.

I hope that the selection of Lindsay marks a turning point for the show, both because she diversifies the cast and because she appears to be the kind of woman I’m excited to root for. To put it delicately, many of the women in “Bachelor” history have not been career-focused women. But as the daughter of a federal judge appointed by Bill Clinton, as well as a high-powered attorney in her own right, Lindsay is smart, capable, independent and successful. In short, she’s a far cry from the usual weepy-eyed Bachelorettes crying into their cocktails.

With the announcement of Lindsay, the show appears to be stepping toward diversifying both its cast and the love plots viewers see on the show.

Maybe it means “The Bachelor” franchise is finally getting a little more progressive — or, at least, as progressive as a show like “The Bachelor” could ever be. Or maybe it just means “Bachelor” producers have finally realized we live in the 21st century.

No matter the reason, the change is long overdue.

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