Rachel Lindsay’s first person story, “Rachel Lindsay Has No Roses Left to Burn,” (as told to Allison P. Davis) in New York Magazine details the racism, toxicity, and hateful experiences she went through during her time in the Bachelor Franchise. To those who aren’t familiar, Rachel was the show’s first Black lead on the 13th season of The Bachelorette. And even though this was a television show, the treatment she endured as a Black woman is a reflection of the world around us.
Before getting into the piece, thought, let’s talk briefly about the cover which includes a photo of Rachel’s face with the words “Oops, I Blew Up the Bachelor.” This is not something Rachel said in the article, nor is it close to anything she has said in the past. Mind you, a big part of the piece is about Rachel’s frustration with the “angry Black woman” trope connected to her time and time again. Not only does text like that on the cover of the story take away the seriousness of the topics she touches on, but it also makes it seem as though Rachel got joy from it. The fact that she said she will not be a part of the franchise anymore is enough to show how far from the truth that is. And she posted about her disappointment online to make sure it was known that is not what she wants people to think of when they start reading:
It should be noted that Rachel Lindsay wrote on Instagram that she felt like â€œ[New York Magazine] decided to misrepresent me with the headline that was chosen for the coverâ€ and that â€œit is in stark contrast to the context of the piece.â€ pic.twitter.com/I2QlmoW3wF— Sarah Lerner (@SarahLerner) June 21, 2021
Despite the clickbait title misrepresenting her main talking points, the piece itself is much more than an “oops”. It begins with a recount of the racial controversy Chris Harrison got himself into, and then takes us back to the beginning of Rachel’s journey with the franchise. As she steered the story closer to the present day, she shared deep and nuanced analysis on the different encounters she had with producers, other contestants, her own suitors, and, probably the most impactful, the audience. I used to wonder why I’ve been so captivated by the franchise, or why I felt such an attachment to characters--specifically the Black characters. Every time a Black contestant was sent home prematurely, or the narrative on the show made them look “angry” for something other cast members have done numerous times, I feel directly impacted. In the past few years, as courageous contestants, like Rachel, have used their voice to speak out on the mistreatment by the show, I realized it’s because the show is a reflection of our world. The show thrives on the loyalty of “Bachnation'' fans, and we have seen it through every decision the show makes. For example, the lead is always chosen based on how much the public likes them. So, a few years ago when the show wasn't able to hide under its whitewashed cast, that’s when they brought Rachel on.
Something about casting Rachel as the first Black Bachelorette feels a lot like one of those times where white people decide which Black person is “acceptable” enough for them. Rachel said it herself when she mentioned how she realized she was their token. This is one of these moments that so many people get wrong. Yes, Rachel is successful, intelligent, and gorgeous. But why is it looked at like something that is rare to find in Black people? In my life, I am around so many Black people who I look up to, both family, and not. It was never a question of them “standing out” from the crowd of Black people. Instead, it was just that this successful person also happens to be Black. I have been told my speaking voice is surprisingly “professional”, and the words I use are “respectable”. If I had a dime for how many people have said a comment like this thinking they were being supportive I would’ve bought the franchise and fixed these issues myself. Every time I’ve heard these kinds of things said to me, there is a surprised or relieved tone that comes with it. And I have to mention all of the “for a Black girl” prompts too. These kinds of “compliments” (a.k.a. insults) are just another way in which whiteness becomes the centre of grace, elegance, and desirability, a society where white people are so quick to claim anything they consider “good” as their own.
There’s no surprise that a show based on stereotypes found it difficult to do Rachel’s season in a positive way. However, when the show pressed for Rachel to become the lead of the show, she insisted that it had to be diverse and representative of the wholesome love story Black women seldom get. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. This is a perfect example of performative activism: the show makes it seem as though they are willing to make change by hiring Black producers on Rachel’s request, give her makeup artists that know how to do makeup on Black skin, and arrange the most diverse cast at that time in the show’s history. Yet, all of these moves were simply to secure the Black token they wanted so they were accepted by the masses without making true change from the inside out. We know this because in this piece, Rachel points out that although they hired Black producers, hers was white. They also did an insanely lousy job of vetting the cast (a racist ended up in the mansion), and pressured her to keep Black men on the cast so the audience would get their diverse cast for as long as possible. All in spite of Rachel. And mind you, Rachel said some of the Black men weren’t even interested in Black women. This one really got me feeling frustrated for her because I know the exact feeling. It’s not that we don’t think we are good enough, self-confidence is not our problem. But all throughout my life, I was the cool girl who gave advice to guys while they pursued everyone else. Most of the reason is because the eurocentric features most people were conditioned to find attractive weren’t found in me. And if there was anyone who was into Black women, I was a few shades too dark to be categorized there. It’s deeper than just having a “type”, because the ignorant racial stereotypes connected to Black women most definitely play a part in this.
What makes this all so upsetting to me is how Rachel was given such a bad hand while also given a title that so many root for. To be the lead of this show means everyone, in theory, is there to support you. No lead should ever wonder whether or not the cast of the men supposedly vying for your heart at least find you desirable. The “Black struggle” trope comes up once again, and what breaks my heart is how it feels as though we still aren’t seen despite being one of the most yearned for titles out there. Instead of supporting Rachel in the way she deserved, they used her pain for good content. Instead of giving her the fairy tale ending edit, they edited to make it seem as though she picked her now husband, Bryan Abasolo, as second choice because runner up, Peter Kraus, said he wasn’t ready to get engaged. While endless white contestants are given that satisfying finale and end up breaking up with their partner less than a couple years later, Rachel, who is still with her man, got an edit that did not depict the true love story. The After The Final Rose special even had Chris Harrison refer to Rachel as “angry” after her runner-up apologized for saying she was going to live a mediocre life if she didn’t pick him. Anyone would be insulted by this, yet Chris used her valid emotions against her to create a stereotypical storm (just another reason why it was time for Chris to go). At the end of the day, Rachel did end up finding the love of her life, but there was no reason why her path had to go the way it did. That’s on the show, and they have to wear it.
And still, despite all of the pain that Rachel experienced during her time in the franchise, her involvement has changed the show forever. In the same breath, I want to highlight the frustration I have while writing this. As a Black woman, it feels as though there is a lot of pain we have to go through before getting the things that others get with ease, and sometimes with less effort. As Rachel said, becoming the first Black Bachelorette was bigger than just a reality-television show, especially when what Rachel calls, “The Bachelor Klan” is out there. She used this term to refer to the part of the fandom that spews hatred. Think about it this way: if there are people out there who have it in them to send endless racial attacks and death threats to Rachel because they believe she is the reason why Chris Harrison left the show, what else are they doing in their day to day lives? Those people go to work, the grocery store, and the mall where they are probably holding the same harmful mindsets. This show is real life, and Rachel’s piece exposes the hatred that still exists today. Shows like these have an impact on the way people view life, and I believe that they have a responsibility to actively speak out and fight against racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and every other form of hatred. I’m so happy to hear that Rachel has taken a step back though, because she has done more than enough for this franchise. The show messed up badly with the first Black Bachelor, and it remains to be seen if they have learned from their mistakes and are striving to do better. Through this whole situation, the most important thing to me and every other fan should be that Rachel Lindsay gets to rest, protect her peace, and live the fairy tale she deserves.