There was both a tinge of excitement and shame when I heard that two Black men are suing ABC for alleged race based discrimination in hiring practices for the trashiest reality show on network television, The Bachelor. I’ve written about The Bachelor before. See here and here and here. The behavior of the men and women on this show is the subject of many blog posts on Monday nights and Tuesday mornings.
I like The Bachelor about as much as I hate it. In fact, I’m more conflicted with the concept of a competitive dating reality show that culminates in a marriage proposal after six weeks than I am on the moral ineptitude of capital punishment in the 33 states that still practice state-sanctioned murder.
Conflicted because assuming an individual is guilty of first degree murder, I understand man’s desire to see that person die though I believe it to be highly immoral to sentence someone to death because they’ve killed someone. Conflicted because there have been innocent men killed in the name of justice. Conflicted because not everyone who is guilty of first degree murder is sentenced to death row. How is that justice? If the punishment fits the crime, and I’m not saying that it does, why do some offenders pay with their life in prison and others pay with their life? Why are some families content knowing their loved one’s murderer(s) is six feet under and some families have to live with knowing that justice for them means something completely different?
Why do some people care about suing network television because they aren’t allowed to make utter fools of themselves on national television and others sit incarcerated and disenfranchised on non-violent drug offenses? Even my reaction to this lawsuit is two-fold. Why have Nathaniel Claybrooks and Chistopher Johnson rallied around this cause? Instead of hiring civil rights attorneys to file suit against the unfair and discriminatory practices within the criminal justice system, they want to fight for their constitutional right to find true love with a bunch of VIP cocktail waitresses.
Only in America.
On the other hand, you’d have to be blind if you missed that in the past fifteen season of The Bachelor have always been white. And not that it would matter more or less if the exclusionary practice only victimized African Americans but the producers at ABC discriminate against everyone except whites. No Blacks allowed. No Asians allowed. No Latinos allowed. No biracials allowed. It’s white’s only for The Bachelor and so while I don’t give a hoot about seeing these particular guys on the show, I give two hoots about making sure everyone has their constitutional right to not be discriminated against on the basis of race so they can act an ass on reality tv.
We’ve already been properly introduced to the notion of Black men sleeping with white women in both real life and Hollywood. It happens. It happened sixty years ago and it’s happening all the more so in current society. It will make a good deal of viewers extremely uncomfortable to watch the show if there’s a Black bachelor and a house full of blondes, brunettes, and red-heads competing for his affection and love. It already makes a good deal of people uncomfortable to watch when race isn’t a factor. I hated, absolutely hated, when Ben kissed one woman, kissed another woman, kissed another woman, and kissed another woman all within the span of one cocktail party before a rose ceremony. It’s gross. It’s disgusting. And some people would come undone if they saw that kind of behavior with a Black man and multiple white women.
Neither Johnson or Claybrooks want to speculate as to why there haven’t been any brothers on the show to date. I’ll speculate. If either of those men behave like Ben, Brad, or any of the previous bachelors on the show, not only would ratings predictably plummet but it would unleash a fury of racist commentary all over the web. The reaction teenagers had over the casting of Rue in Hunger Games was appalling. The comments on blogs and articles across the web on any one of a dozen race story in the news are so hateful and negative that it doesn’t feel like race relations have improved all that much in the past half century. It’s discouraging and scary to live in a society where after all this time, people still hold on to racism. So I understand ABC not wanting the show to fall into the hands of ignorant fans who won’t look kindly upon one Black man dating a room full of white dentists and business managers, but that’s all the more reason to do it anyway. Fear of racist backlash or any kind of backlash gives bigots the power. If it’s a show about love or sex or how to date fourteen women at once and walk away with a fiancée at the end of six weeks, then it should be about that for men and women of every race. The end.
But ABC cannot in good conscience insist that the only qualified candidates for the show in fifteen seasons have only been white men. The same network that gave us Kevin and Scottie, a happy and healthy homosexual relationship, on Brothers and Sisters, also gave us Dr. Addison Montgomery and Dr. Sam Bennet. If ABC were anymore liberal, it’d have to team up with MTV. So what gives? Why can’t viewers watch a “real” love story unfold from beginning to end with all the dramatic antics of a scripted television drama? Somewhere out in the real world sits a man of color who really wanted to be the next bachelor. He possesses the charm, physique, and personality to enchant both the women in the house and the millions of viewers watching from home. And I guarantee you he was a lot more interesting than season 15’s Ben Flajink but wasn’t even considered because of the color of his skin.
Well, Flavor Flav managed to bring VH1 back to the spotlight after years of unsuccessful programming. Maybe it’s time ABC expands the casting call to all eligible bachelors, too. This isn’t a whites only society anymore. And while I’d prefer we fight the battle in another avenue, it’s just as important that Black men and Asian men and Latino men live out their reality star dreams, too. So while Johnson and Claybrooks don’t have a right to be the next Bachelor, ABC does not have the right to continue its exclusionary hiring practices with regard to race, age, or sexual orientation for that matter.
Why shouldn’t the next spin-off in The Bachelor series be about finding true love with same-sex partners?
What do you guys think? Are these two men just mad because they didn’t get picked for the show or do you think they have a legitimate claim against ABC for discriminating against people of color?