Bachelor fans and alums are calling on ABC to diversify the reality show cast on the long-running reality TV dating competition.
The Bachelor and Bachelorette series have only cast one Black lead in their 40 seasons of casting for both shows.
Rachel Lindsay, who starred as the only Black lead in the series’ 18-year history, spoke out in an interview with Afterbuzz on Friday, saying she can’t be “affiliated” with The Bachelor if they don’t change.
“If we’re going around talking about Black Lives Matter and what’s important and how we need systemic change … well then let’s talk about systemic change when it comes to The Bachelor. We got to change some things there, too,” Rachel said.
“I think that they have to, at this point, give us a Black bachelor for Season 25. You have to. I don’t know how you don’t,” she said, referring to the franchise as “whitewashed.”
“And it’s been asked of me, will I continue in this franchise if it continues in this way? I can’t. I have to see some type of change. It’s ridiculous. It’s embarrassing. At this point, it’s embarrassing to be affiliated with it,” she added.
Following Lindsay’s comments, the Bachelor Diversity Campaign was launched on Monday by 10 Bachelor viewers who connected through a Facebook fan page.
“As creators of one of the most popular and influential franchises on television, ABC and Warner Bros. have an opportunity and responsibility to feature Black, Indigenous, people of colour (‘BIPOC’) relationships, families and storylines,” the Bachelor Diversity Campaign’s petition reads. “The franchise, and all those who represent it, should reflect and honour the racial diversity of our country — both in front of and behind the camera.”
The petition says that Bachelor nation wants ABC and Warner Bros. to take the following actions to help combat racism:
“Cast a Black bachelor as Season 25 lead, cast BIPOC for at least 35 per cent of contestants each season hereafter, give equitable screen time to BIPOC contestants, actively support BIPOC cast, including providing mental health resources specifically geared to helping them navigate the Bachelor franchise experience as BIPOC and equitably compensate and hire more BIPOC employees in all parts of production, casting and filming.”
The petition also asks ABC and Warner Bros. to “publicly pledge to vet contestants more thoroughly to ensure those who have promoted prejudice (e.g. ableism, racism, sexism, white supremacy, religious intolerance, homophobia, transphobia) are not cast and to hire a BIPOC diversity consultant to be involved in all parts of production, casting and filming.”
The petition also asks ABC and Warner Bros. to “condemn racist abuse directed towards BIPOC contestants and announce a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards racism on-air, commit to providing resources to help viewers learn more about BIPOC stories and organizations supporting BIPOC causes, feature BIPOC contestants, including their experiences as BIPOC, on the show as storylines, ensure that Indigenous cultures are not exploited and their portrayal does not perpetuate harmful stereotypes (and) pledge to donate to a cause that will help combat racism.”
The last request from the petition asks ABC and Warner Bros. to “issue a public statement apologizing for enabling systemic racism within the franchise and offer a clear plan for demonstrable anti-racism efforts moving forward.”
“Representation matters, and it is one of the most important ways our country can embrace its diversity and evolve,” a statement from the group read. “We will use our power as viewers and fans to hold ABC and Warner Bros. accountable and demand they use their platform in a more thoughtful, race-conscious and socially responsible way. It’s time that ABC, (Bachelor creator) Mike Fleiss and Warner Bros. take demonstrable action to address the inequalities in casting, screen time and employment of minority groups.”
The petition launched on Monday afternoon and has a goal of 10,000 signatures. At the time of this writing, the petition has 8,568 signatures.
Catherine Lowe, who won Sean Lowe’s heart on his season of The Bachelor in 2013, took to Instagram on Sunday to talk about her experience on the dating show.
Catherine, who was one of the only women of colour on Lowe’s season, said she felt like she was cast on the series to “check a box.”
“Tomorrow, our season of The Bachelor re-airs in a condensed three-hour episode. When I was originally cast, I was very flattered but somewhat grounded by the fact that I would be one of the faces that represented people of colour. I knew that one of the reasons I was probably chosen was because I was Filipino,” Catherine explained.
“I counted myself out to be his fiancée because of what I assumed Sean liked. I thought I was there just to check a box, but I ended up with so much more,” she continued. “I became present with the process and as he started noticing me for who I really was, I allowed this experience to open myself up to the possibility of being fully loved and appreciated for all that I was. I ended up getting to represent a mixed-race community, I found Christ (I LOVE my testimony!) and marrying the most amazing man I’ve ever known. I’d say doing this show was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
“Don’t count yourself out. You are destined to do bigger things than just check a box,” she concluded.
Global News has reached out to ABC for comment.