Rachel Lindsay is happy that Matt James will be the first black Bachelor, but she’s still waiting for the franchise to prove its commitment to diversity.
The first black Bachelorette congratulated James on Twitter following his casting on Friday, saying it’s a “step in the right direction.” But she added, “I would be remiss to not point out that based on the current climate, it feels like a knee-jerk reaction and a result of societal pressure. This announcement, without any further commitments regarding diversity, sweepingly brushes deeper issues under the rug.”
Lindsay had long called on the franchise to fix its diversity problem, but those cries have intensified in the last few weeks in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and George Floyd‘s death. Last week, fans started a petition demanding, among other changes, a black lead. Both the petition and Lindsay have laid out multiple anti-racism changes they want the franchise to make to diversify its ranks in front of and behind the camera, and ensure equal and fair screen time to contestants of color.
SEE ‘The Bachelor’ casts Matt James as its first black Bachelor
The “Bachelor” franchise only announced James’ casting and has not directly addressed the other demands. ABC’s head of alternative programming, Rob Mills, has said that selecting James is not a “cure-all” and knows that “it may not be enough.” He also shared that producers were already considering James, who was originally cast on Clare Crawley‘s upcoming season of “The Bachelorette,” to be the Bachelor after the coronavirus pandemic shut down production on “The Bachelorette.”
“Until we see action to address the systemic racism within the franchise, the casting news today is equivalent to the trend of posting a black box on your social media account without other steps taken to dismantle the systems of injustice,” Lindsay continued. “I look forward to hearing more about the additional efforts the franchise plans to make towards change.”
Lindsay echoed those sentiments on the “Bachelor Party” podcast, on which host Juliet Litman was stoked about James’ casting.
SEE Who is Matt James? 9 things to know about the first black Bachelor
“Juliet, I wish I could emulate your sentiment,” Lindsay said. “Don’t get me wrong, it is lovely that there is a black Bachelor. It is great, but let’s get in to the ‘but.’ I have been very vocal about the fact that we need a black Bachelor. This is not because of the movement. I always have to say that. I have always pushed for diversity. It’s just black voices are being amplified in a way that they have never been before … and now people are paying attention. The fact that there are a list of things I have requested and this petition that’s on Change.org, and the bare minimum was done, which seems to be so simple, right? Just give us a black Bachelor? That’s what you do? It’s a Band-Aid. It’s the easiest thing to me that you can do and I hate that it’s in response — or it seems like a knee-jerk reaction to what happened in our society, what happened with George Floyd and the pressure that you’re getting from society.”
To put it bluntly, the attorney said it’s as though “a man had to die in such a gruesome and public way for us to get a black Bachelor.”
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