Posted on February 9, 2010

A Black President Before a Black ‘Bachelor’?

Joshua Alston, Newsweek, February ,5 2010

{snip} But as I watch the remaining women vie for Jake’s hand in marriage [Jake Pavelka is the star of this season of The Bachelor, a show I’m watching for the first time and am absorbed in], I can’t help but think: Why are all of these people white? In fact, in the 14-season history of the show, all of the bachelors have been white, along with a staggering majority of the women available to him.

My first inclination was to call the show’s executive producer and ask. But then I thought better of it. Why waste time with a crafted, politically correct explanation when I already know the answer? People still overwhelmingly date and marry within their own race. White people are the majority in this country and, therefore, the best audience to target from a ratings standpoint, and there’s risk in alienating viewers who may have less enlightened views on interracial couples. {snip} The Bachelor is one of many pop-culture artifacts that highlight the uncomfortable gap between the way we’d like to think of racial integration and the way it actually is. Just as people of different races don’t often date each other or worship together, we also don’t read many of the same books, or like many of the same movies, or adore many of the same celebrities. {snip}

Periodically, controversies arise when people are forced to confront this dissonance. Vanity Fair just released its Hollywood issue, and gracing its cover are nine rising starlets, all of them wispy, white women. {snip} Vanity Fair, like The Bachelor, didn’t create the disparity, they just committed it to film. That’s not to say we shouldn’t strive for progress whenever possible. J. J. Abrams, to his credit, cast Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the male and female leads for his new NBC thriller Undercovers, a bold choice considering both are black, neither are household names, and the characters (married spies) don’t necessarily call for black actors. But it’s an experiment to say the least.

People of different races talk over each other’s heads all the time: {snip} The truth is, it’s disturbing how divided we still are in some respects, so we convince ourselves these divisions don’t exist, then bristle when we’re reminded otherwise. It’s a goal for America to reach a point at which people of different races are integrated in every facet of life; we’ll date each other, worship together, and judge movies based not on the color of their characters’ skin but on the content of their characters’ characters. In the meantime, we’ll just have to grin and bear it when reminded that we’re not quite there yet. {snip}