Why I'm glad Jubilee wasn't the first black Bachelorette

Mar 18, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Image: ABC

I think it’s important to note that I’m team JoJo all the way. The idea of sitting through a season with Caila as the Bachelorette brings tears to many an eye. That being said, Bachelor/Bachelorette fans are angry — rightfully so — that the network implied a diverse season of Bachelorette ahead, only to announce the all too familiar southern belle with strong family ties and older brothers who will surely make for an awkward and entertaining hometown episode.

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I don’t believe Jubilee Sharpe would have been selected for The Bachelorette. The whole "unlovable" card was already played by Bachelor Ben. However, I think the world was looking forward to a reformed, racially inclusive Bachelorette. News flash: Women who aren’t white are looking for love as well. Sometimes they want to do it with cameras following them and 25–28 men from all over the U.S., as they travel to exotic places and go on ridiculous dates. The 36 black contestants over the past 20 seasons are evidence of that.

If the recent few years have shown the U.S. anything, it’s that we still have a long way to go in the journey toward racial equality. Could a black, Latina, Middle Eastern or Asian Bachelorette be the minority community’s Neil Armstrong for reality TV? No, but that one black or brown contestant could've had the potential to be one small step, starting by showing that beauty extends beyond the conventional petite, blond-haired or blue-eyed top four contestants and subsequent Bachelors/Bachelorettes.

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Personally, I’m glad the producers haven’t chosen a woman of color to be the next contestant quite yet. While it’s definitely needed, as a woman of color I think the first racially diverse Bachelorette should be undeniably smart, beautiful and successful in order to confidently combat the storm that will surely come her way. She’ll be breaking down a barrier, and while everyone is seemingly open to the change, actually having it happen is a different story.

Might I remind Bachelor Nation of one Juan Pablo? He was the first Latino Bachelor and, by most counts, the most hated. Was he a jerk — or stronger noun? Without a doubt. Was there a cultural barrier that made him an easy target for endless scrutiny? I’d argue there was.

More important, women in the limelight are scrutinized much more harshly than these men. Hypothetically, if Jubilee were the first black Bachelorette and invited all three men to stay with her in the fantasy suite — something almost all Bachelors or Bachelorettes have done to date — the public’s perception of her would be much, much different than how they viewed Andi or Ben or any of the 29 previous Bachelors/Bachelorettes. Why? Because of the color of her skin and the associated stereotypes. It’s going to take a very strong woman, suitor and support system to get over and through that first season.

ABC needs to diversify. Most people are excited for the change and were understandably disappointed when the network didn’t make good on their promise. But before we get #Bachelorsowhite trending, we should take a step back and consider if any of the contestants thus far could handle conducting the train instead of simply riding along.

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