Pediatric dentist Dr. Misee Harris of Kentucky is petitioning to become the first ever Black “Bachelorette.” This prospect means a lot is surfacing for me regarding the harmful stereotypes reinforced by women of color on reality television. How would she be received? If she did get an opportunity to be on the show and chose a non-black man, what would the social implications of that be? But more than that, I feel disheartened because I know that this reality reflects how America feels about who deserves to be happy and who doesn’t.
Author and commentator Keli Goff argued on The Huffington Post that “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette”‘s collective 25 seasons with no Black people in the coveted role isn’t an act of racism. I disagree. Society tells us that marriage and the supposed happiness that is derived from it aren’t meant for everyone — hence the multi-decade struggle to legalize the right of gay folks to marry. This reality reflects how Americans feel about who deserves to be happy and who doesn’t. Whether these exclusions are purposeful are irrelevant; many of us consciously reject stereotypes yet still hold subconscious negative associations about people who are different than we are, TV execs included. It’s an implicit bias (subconscious prejudice) that informs their decisions about who they choose to be on the show. These executives genuinely fear what putting a Black man or woman front and center might do to their ratings – and as voyeurs, we’re often not privy to those kinds of conversations.