This Sunday, America will tune in for the eagerly anticipated season finale of The Bachelorette. Will Emily Maynard chose Arie Luyendyk Jr. or Jef Holm? The most common answer to that question seems to be, does it even matter?
What is even more notable as this season comes to a close, is the series’ continued lack of racial diversity. Maynard is hot, white, and blond, and her two potential Romeos are white as well. In fact, in the 16 seasons of The Bachelor and eight seasons of The Bachelorette, there has never been a person of a non-white ethnicity in the title bachelor or bachelorette role.
In May, two African-American men, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, filed a class action lawsuit accusing ABC, and The Bachelor and The Bachelorette creator Mike Fleiss of racial discrimination.
The men claimed that the show has never featured, “a single person of color … in the central role.” They further state that minorities who were featured in the program were eliminated in the early episodes. There accusations seem to be true. When the token ethnic contestans are featured, they either go home early or are used for comedic fodder. The Bachelor fans will remember the Jake Pavelka season when a contestant of Cambodian descent Channy Choch told him (in Khmer) that he could land his plane on her landing strip. Choch went home soon after.
The lack of diversity on television dating shows becomes even more interesting when juxtaposed with the casting make up of other reality programs. On shows like The Biggest Loser, The Amazing Race, and The Apprentice, all ages and races are featured players. It only seems to be on shows where love connections are being made that the networks are reluctant to mix races.
As Claybrooks and Johnson wrote in their complaint, “the presence of people of color in ABC programming is acceptable so long as there is no exhibition of actual romance between non-whites or whites and people of color.”
Their accusation seems to be spot on. ABC appears to be under the impression that American audiences are not yet ready for mixed race couples. To be 100% fair, Cuban-American Mary Delgado, and Puerto Rican Roberto Martinez won Season 6 of The Bachelorette and The Bachelor, respectively. But even then, Martinez and Delgado could be racially identified as white.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Fleiss, the show's creator, was asked if audiences would ever see a bachelor or bachelorette who is not white. "I think Ashley is 1/16th Cherokee Indian, but I cannot confirm," Fleiss said of then bachelorette. "We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism. Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there! We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, it's just that for whatever reason, they don't come forward. I wish they would."
In season 8, there was a Colombian contestant, Alejandro, and a Brazilian contestant, Allesandro, as well as one African-American contestant, Lerone; all three were eliminated early on.
As Emily's season comes to a close, and rumors for the next season gear up, audiences will just have to wait to see if Fleiss and ABC break from their white-washed ways and feature a non-white star. Unfortunately, it seems as if the powers that be are more comfortable with a throwback segregation-style cast, than a cast whose racial diversity actually reflects American relationships, and American audiences.
The Bachelorette season finale airs Sunday July 22, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.