Bachelor Nation viewers are used to the Bachelorette crying. Hannah Brown consistently broke down over the mental stress of dating Luke Parker. Becca Kufrin's sobs over her Arie Luyendyk Jr. breakup are what secured her the Bachelorette gig in the first place.
On Tuesday night, The Bachelorette’s latest lead, Tayshia Adams, joined her teary predecessors during her date with now-frontrunner Ivan Hall. But, Tayshia’s experience in “Week 7” is unlike any Bachelorette — or Bachelor, for that matter — before her. After years of clamoring for real conversations on Bachelor Nation dates, Tayshia and Ivan finally gave fans what they wanted. They go to boundary-shattering depths with one heart-to-heart about their personal histories with racism. The pair talks about the death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, and police brutality, all within a 13-minute conversation.
Forget the faux-drama of song competitions and oiled-up wrestling matches — Tayshia and Ivan’s backyard hangout is the most important (and most unforgettable) Bachelorette date ever.
Tayshia and Ivan’s date starts out unassuming enough. They play a game of The Floor is Lava and feast on room service before retiring to Tayshia’s cozy backyard. Tayshia jokingly complains about how much easier her younger siblings have it in the Adams family. Then, like any good dater, she asks Ivan about his younger siblings. Ivan could have given a canned, simple answer. Instead, he reveals his younger brother began abusing drugs and alcohol around the time Ivan went to college. Ivan’s brother was eventually sentenced to four years in prison directly after finding out he was expecting a baby. Ivan’s niece was only able to see her dad through a plexiglass wall for the first few years of her life.
Traditionally, a Bachelorette contestant would use this traumatic story to secure a rose and move on. That is why Bachelor Nation meme accounts like Bachelor Clues use phrases for contestants like, “Your suffering shall be savored” as a nod to the trope-y Bachelor Nation deployment of past horrors for entertainment gains.
Ivan does not fall into that TV trap. He and Tayshia use his emotional reveal to actually talk about the year's most pressing issues and deepen their relationship in a meaningful way. Ivan tells Tayshia that George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers was particularly difficult for him after learning about his own brother’s time in prison. “My brother used to tell me stories about how these correctional officers literally beat him up,” Ivan tells Tayshia. Ivan admits his knee-jerk reaction was to ask what his brother did to deserve such a punishment before realizing it doesn’t matter — no “bad” behavior could merit such a violent abuse of power.
“These people have a job to do, and they need to do it right. They can’t just be hurting people,” Ivan concludes. Later he recalls repeatedly having racial slurs throw at him on his college campus.
It's overwhelming to imagine the impact Ivan’s statement could have on viewers not expecting a lesson in the brutal danger of systemic racism in the middle of their supposedly fluffy favorite fall dating show. After all, The Bachelorette has been the top-rated Tuesday show with adults ages 18-49 for weeks. A lot of people witnessed Ivan's soul-bearing admission.
Ivan’s honesty allows Tayshia — a self-described “mixed” woman with Black and Mexican heritage — room to be more open about her own outlook on America’s racial justice revolution, albeit in a slightly more coded manner. Tayshia cries about her struggles as a Black woman “from Orange County.” It’s a euphemism for “surrounded by white people;” the U.S. census confirms the city where Tayshia grew up is over 71% white and only 2.1% Black. “Hearing people yelling ‘Black Lives Matter’ — it hit me more than I realized because those are people in my backyard that I’ve been trying to prove [to] for so long that I’m the same as them,” Tayshia admits. She is unable to stop crying.
Tayshia also makes a few very subtle suggestions about her past dating history, if you listen closely. “I’ve never had this before: someone mixed like me,” she begins. “Okay, Orange County, got it,” Ivan responds, hinting he suspects Tayshia has only dated white men before. Her Bachelor Nation flirtations include Colton Underwood, Derek Peth (who is Brazilian), and John Paul Jones. Tayshia's ex-husband is Josh Bourelle, a white man. The Bachelorette may very well be Tayshia’s first opportunity to date someone who looks like her.
“2020 made that happen, I feel like. In the sense of it’s just opened my eyes to say, ‘What the hell are you doing? Wake up!,'” she continued, quietly adding credence to that likelihood. “I appreciate you opening up to me about … how this entire year’s impacted you. Because I haven’t really been able to talk to someone that really understands me.”
These are the kinds of conversations we get when The Bachelorette invests in diversity — in its leads, but more importantly in its contestants. Still, it is unfortunate that Black Bachelor Nation stars are the one whose duty it is to traverse these delicate topics in the public eye first. Particularly since The Bachelor’s 2020 “Women Tell All” special deftly explained the social media abuse contestants of color suffer at the hands of racist trolls. Clare, a white Latinx woman, easily could have asked her winner Dale Moss about the impact of Black Lives Matter on his life. The intricacies of the topic never came up, although Dale did mention the difficulty of growing up in a biracial household in South Dakota. That is where the conversation ended.