Matt James Is the First Black Bachelor on Popular ABC Reality Program

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Halle Berry became the first Black woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2002. However, it took 19 years for the first Black man, Matt James, to star in “The Bachelor.”

The non-scripted reality tv program debuted on ABC on March 25, 2002. With its first episode, “The Bachelor” series kicked off an international franchise that is still popular today.  Over the years, the public has been introduced to an impressive lineup of eligible men looking for love.

Looking back at the roster of Bachelors throughout the years, it is easy to pick out many similarities between them. The typical Bachelor is young, handsome, successful — and White. That is right. Every single Bachelor for the past 24 years has been a White man.

James is a 28-year-old entrepreneur and former football player from Raleigh, North Carolina. This year, he made history when he became the first Black man to star on “The Bachelor.” With his selection, ABC,  along with the general public, has finally had to have a real conversation about “The Bachelor’s” disappointing lack of racial diversity throughout its 25-season run.

Bachelor fans have been upset with the issue for years, and ABC has been neglectful in addressing their concerns.

The network was previously wrapped up in a legal battle when two Black men who auditioned for the show filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination. They accused ABC and Warner Horizon Television of not giving people of color the same consideration as others.

The lawsuit ending up being dismissed, and the show attempted to fix the situation by casting its first Latino star the following year. That was a good step, but it is important to note that Latino is an ethnic group and not a race. Members of the Latino ethnicity can be racially identified as White, as is the case with Juan Pablo Galavis. Fans looking for clear evidence of racial progress in “The Bachelor” franchise were still disappointed.

JamesABC made the biggest leap toward racial progress in selecting Rachel Lindsay as the first Black star of “The Bachelorette” in 2017. Black fans worldwide rejoiced as they finally saw a star on the screen that reflected them.

But her appearance on the show was not without controversy. Lindsay had to deal with racist trolling as the show aired and continues to deal with it today, especially since she chose to pair up with a White man. Her saga reveals the hard truth that with racial progress, there often comes racist blowback.

James had a lot to be excited about when he was chosen as the newest Bachelor with such a long history. However, he also had a lot to be wary of, given the franchise’s racial issues.

In a statement on Instagram, James addressed the most recent controversy when host Chris Harrison defended a former contestant who was photographed at a racist party in 2018. James said, “The reality is that I’m learning about these situations in real-time, and it has been devastating and heartbreaking, to put it bluntly. As Black people and allies immediately knew and understood, it was a clear reflection of a much larger issue that The Bachelor franchise has fallen short on addressing adequately for years.”

Whether this will be the only racial controversy that James has to endure now that he has entered history as the first Black Bachelor, in a time where Americans of all races are beginning to reconcile with this country’s complex racial history, it is safe to say that James will most likely have further conversations like these in the future.

He has already proven himself to be a poised and compassionate person. Moving forward, it will be important for him to call upon these essential qualities as he navigates Hollywood and his newfound fame as a Black man.

Written by Xia Young
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware


CNN: Matt James addresses ‘Bachelor’ racism controversy; by Chloe Melas

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Disney|ABC – Used With Permission


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