The Bachelor Sued for Discrimination: Getting to the Root of the Red Rose

A class action lawsuit was filed against ABC and the production companies responsible for the hit television shows, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, on Wednesday, reports CNN. The suit claims that producers, and the makers of the show, have racially discriminated against applicants seeking lead roles.

For the past 23 seasons, the dating reality show has rarely starred a non-white lead bachelor or bachelorette. The surprising factor is that they haven’t experienced heavy criticism for their lack of diversity until now. That we can tell, only two Latinos have starred in the show’s history. There was the Cuban contestant from the sixth season of the Bachelor, Mary Delgado, and Puerto Rican Bachelorette season six winner, Roberto Martinez.

Two African Americans who applied for The Bachelor last year, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, filed the complaint. In the report, the men claim that producers specifically look to feature only white male leads because of “the calculation that minorities in lead roles and interracial dating [are] unappealing to the shows’ audiences...a conscious attempt to minimize the risk of alienating their majority-white viewership and the advertisers targeting that viewership."

In other words, there may be a racial inclusion and exclusion paradigms taking place based on the idea that viewers will get turned off by interracial dating – specifically when a person of color is in the position of power. Let’s be clear, the show has featured a rainbow of ethnicities when it comes to their pool of contestants including, Latinos, African Americans, and Asians. This signifies that the issue runs deeper than intermixing being considered a taboo in the U.S.

The notion that people of color can’t stand in the place of authority and hand their red rose to a white contestant if they choose to, mirrors the post-colonial mentality that interracial dating is acceptable as long as the white person is the initiator (or the aggressor during slavery).

Whether they win the lawsuit or not, the widespread media attention has already succeeded at giving a voice to the silent discrimination that has been going on since the show’s conception. Let’s challenge these reality shows and really think about what kind of ‘reality’ it forms about our community and our people.

If we really look at television in this lens, we will be hitting the off button a lot more, which could make some of these networks rethink their programming.