I recently watched one of the last episodes of The Bachelor, in which Nick, the lead, took Rachel out on a date. As a viewer, Rachel stands out among the other candidates. She is incredibly mature, intelligent, and has depth. Rachel is also one of the only black contestants on the show.
Last night, it was announced that Rachel is going to be the next bachelorette; this news is important because not only will Rachel be the first black woman to be the bachelorette, she will be the first women of color to be the bachelorette. In the show’s history, there has only been one other bachelor of color, Juan Pablo. When asked about her feelings towards being the first black bachelorette, Rachel stated on the Jimmy Kimmel show last night “I don’t feel added pressure.” She continued “I’m honored to have this opportunity and to represent myself as an African-American woman and I just hope that people rally behind me….Even though I’m an African-American woman, it’s not different from any other bachelorette.” This quote struck me as interesting. My immediate reaction was to dispute this claim: this is different. This is really a big step for a TV show that has run for 21 seasons, and has never had a black winner or lead.
In fact, no black contestant has ever made it past week 5 on the show until now. But, who am I to tell Rachel how her identity affects this dynamic? As I watched the second to last episode where Rachel and Nick, the white bachelor, went on the date, it was difficult to analyze how intersectionality played a role in this date. In a way, it didn’t. It was a staged date just like any other staged date on the Bachelor. This made me think both of Nash’s “re-thinking intersectionality” and the piece we read last week on disidentification. Just because Rachel has an intersecting identity of being black and being female, we can not then assign identity to her.
Intersectionality in a way has forced us to place identities on others, rather than move away from identities. While this notion may seem obvious, not all black women on TV feel the pressure of responsibility to represent ALL other black women on TV. This is not Rachel’s problem to fix. This is the networks’ issue to address; in order for black women to stop being tokenized, there must be a wide range of black women on the show in which younger viewers can attempt to identify/ disidentify with.