So, Did Race Actually Matter On The Bachelorette?

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
With the exception of the “Men Tell All” episode that’s airing next week, there is only one episode left in this season of The Bachelorette. We’re finally going to know who Rachel Lindsay chose to be her one and only and confirm who was responsible for putting a ring on it. With our journey coming to an end, now also feels like an appropriate time to reflect on exactly what role race played in getting us to this point. Now that Lee is gone, hometowns have happened, and the final three men — Bryan, Peter, and Eric — met Rachel’s family in Monday night’s episode, racial dynamics have been explored from several different angles. With the first Black lead in the franchise’s history, this season of the Bachelorette essentially served us a utopian version of diversity and interracial dating.
Before the season even started, Lindsay was pretty upfront about the fact that she wasn’t going to pick her future partner based on race alone. It looks like she is a woman of her word. Eric, Peter, and Bryan represent a perfect Neapolitan blend of diversity, and she has unique connections with each of them. There’s some precedence for this openness in Rachel’s own family. Her sister is married to a white man, and her uncle is married to a white woman. I can’t imagine that these details were overlooked when the show’s producers cast her. Rachel and her family are examples of uncomplicated, happy interracial couples. They bridge a gap for viewers who have been watching almost exclusively white couples find love for over 20 cycles.
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And for show that garnered so much attention for finally having a Black bachelorette, they were surprisingly mum about her Blackness during the season. Viewers looking for a deeper dive into racial politics found it in the charged interactions between Lee and Black contestants like Eric and Kenny. On camera, Rachel remained intentionally vague about such issues — though, to her credit, she let her opinions flow freely on Twitter as the season aired.
The family meetings on Monday's episode were also a means of neutralizing race. During her hometown date with Nick Viall during his season of The Bachelor, Rachel’s family grilled him on whether or not he’d ever been with a Black woman, and if he was equipped to handle those dynamics. No such questions were asked when Rachel brought Peter and Bryan home on this season.
Sure, The Bachelorette made history when it put Rachel at the forefront. It was a step forward for diversity and created multiple opportunities for discourse on racial boundaries and dating across them. They’ll pause on certain relationships and dialogues (i.e. Lee vs. Kenny) just long enough for us to consider the racial dynamics, but not for more than a fleeting moment, and not without a good explanation to quell any actual accusations of racism. The Bachelorette — and many of its viewers — wants to start the conversation about race, but they don’t want to actually participate in it. For this franchise, love conquers all, including race. That’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.
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