YES, it is a big deal that Rachel Lindsay, the first Black star of The Bachelorette, is BLACK.
I’m late on tuning in to the new historic season of the show and Lindsay has already begun to look for love. I binged on the first two episodes on Hulu, and you will now find me live-tweeting the rest of the season on Monday nights. But I don’t feel guilty for being a little late since it took 34 seasons for the Bachelor and Bachelorette franchises to get a Black person signed on as the prime dater.
YES, I’ll say it again: It is a big deal that Rachel is BLACK.
And yes, she is so much more than her race. Rachel is an accomplished lawyer from Texas. She has a cute dog named Copper (we still need the story on what happened to his leg, Rach). She was a camp counselor, and one of the kids she disciplined back in the day is now vying to be her forever bae on the show.
Yet and still, in the year 2017 when Rachel walks through a room and twirls through the dating scene the world just sees a BLACK WOMAN.
And when it comes to Black women, we have not often been heralded as objects of affection and a prized catch to take home to meet the parents. The sting still remains from OK Cupid’s 2009 data that stated Black women on the site had the lowest message response rate from men of all races, while being the most likely to reply to men. Black women didn’t invent racism and are not defined by it, but we are certainly impacted by race in our dating lives.
So it is a big deal for a BLACK WOMAN to be heralded around the nation and world as an OBJECT OF AFFECTION. Notice I didn’t say desire. For centuries the image of Black women has been of sexual prowess, but rarely as wife goals for men of all races.
Of course we know many Black women have exciting dating lives and get married every day if they chose, and celebrate that at ESSENCE. We also know it’s a storyline that is not broadcast widely nearly enough.
That’s why seeing Rachel be the star with 31 men – one for every year of her life thus far – excited to meet her and possibly be her husband is a necessary and overdue image at such a large level. I hope Black women are reminded how desirable we are to men of all walks of life and the love we desire is possible for us.
“Rachel distinguished herself as intelligent, athletic, playful, witty and emotionally mature. She also happened to be Black,” shares NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in an essay for the Hollywood Reporter. Because yes, Rachael and Kareem are friends and he helped coach a basketball game with some of the fellas on episode two. That’s after Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis brought all their cuteness to host the Husband Material Obstacle Course to see if these guys can take care of home while Rachel takes care of business.
The new Bachelorette reflects the majority of single Black women in America. Degreed up (we are the country’s most educated demographic), career minded (Black women are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs), and dating over 30 as the show’s oldest star in its history (the majority of Black women still get married, we just do it later on average) – all that hustle and school work take time.
The other major win of a Black Bachelorette is more African American men as contestants. This juggernaut franchise is bringing some professional Black guys, along with some odd ones, into the homes of millions of people that may not ever have had a Black man sit on their couch.
It was watching Rachel on her date with Peter (my second choice after Josiah) that it dawned on me that Disney has never had a Black prince. While Black girls can see themselves reflected in Princess Tiana, the ultimate fantasy of love does not have a guy that looks like most of our dads. Seeing cute, young Black men be vulnerable in their chance to win Rachel’s heart is important, especially now as a juxtaposition to the many negative images of our men that permeate the public sphere.
Of course this is reality TV and sure to have many orchestrated moments and drama – that “To be continued” was so disrespectful interrupting the craziness of Episode 2. Still, this show is already a win to center Black women in our rightful place as prize. Yes to the emoji with melanin for #TheBachelorette Twitter hashtag.
“I can’t get over all these men are here for me, but I love it,” Rachel says on the show. Drink it up sis. You, and all of us, are more than worthy.
Watch The Bachelorette Mondays at 8pm EST on ABC
Charreah K. Jackson is ESSENCE Senior Editor, Lifestyle and Relationships and the author of Boss Bride: The Powerful Woman’s Playbook for Love and Success. Catch her live tweeting #TheBachelorette at @Charreah.