I wanted to share a very fascinating article on race and privilege focused on the reality TV show ‘The Bachelor’. I believe it is very relevant to our work.
For those who are unfamiliar, the show focuses on a bachelor or bachelorette who starts at the beginning of the season with a pool of 20-25 potential romantic interests. Over the course of several weeks, the bachelor/ette whittles down the pool of candidates until their one true love remains (or something like that).
One interesting (and important) quirk of the show is that the bachelor/ette for the following season is selected from the top 2-3 finalists from the precedeing season. While this gimmick is probably great for ratings and maintaining interest in the show, it has pretty significant consequences along racial lines.
How significant? Well, for the first time in 34 seasons, the show will feature a Black person as the Bachelorette. Why, pray tell has it taken so long to get to this point? Linda Holmes, pop culture writer for NPR explains:
When the Bacheloron is white and most of the candidates are white, what this means is this: If you’re a black candidate, you can be chosen, but first, you have to impress a white Bacheloron and convince that person to, for many weeks in a row, pick you. You cannot go forward without their say-so, because of longstanding structural rules about allocating power that they themselves have followed successfully in order to become powerful in the first place. You have to figure out how to navigate not only their evaluation of your qualities as a person, but also their largely mysterious “gut feelings” and “instincts” and ideas about “compatibility” and “fit” and so forth. Only by navigating that white Bacheloron’s decision-making correctly can you, as a black candidate, obtain power yourself by being chosen. So to succeed in this structure as a black person, you have to click — in some hard-to-define way for which nobody is accountable — with a white person who gets to say yes or no to you. That person’s approval is the only path.
Holmes takes it a step further though and connects the dots from the show — to all of us:
Now go back and replace “Bacheloron” with “boss” and “chosen” with “promoted,” and you’ll see that they may have accidentally set up a really freaky metaphor for the way structural racism can sometimes work without anybody setting out to do it. They consider this system, by the way, to be utterly race-neutral. But in practice, in actual undeniable fact, it has been a story almost entirely of a white person picking the next white person, and of that white person then picking another white person, and everybody shrugging and saying, “I just went with my gut! It was love!”
Without any deep intent to exclude or discriminate, personal preferences have bubbled up to systemic barriers that have limited opportunity and access. This is of course why it is so important to not only push for greater diversity in our applicant pools but also to acknowledge that voice in our heads push past it and proactively choose diversity.