On his popular video series Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, former Cleveland Browns linebacker and New York Times best-selling author Emmanuel Acho tackles charged racial issues with white folks, sometimes famous, who don’t quite get it. So he’s more than prepared for his latest gig: hosting The Bachelor‘s “After the Final Rose” episode on Monday, March 15.
Acho is a newcomer to Bachelor Nation—he’s even turned down multiple offers to appear on The Bachelorette before—but he’ll be taking over while host Chris Harrison takes a “step back” from the franchise following an interview in which he defended Rachael Kirkconnell, a contestant on this season of The Bachelor who was called out for past racist behavior including attending an “Old South”–themed party.
There’s no doubt in my mind Acho will do well in this new role. He knows how to treat white people gently and explains issues of race better than most. He gets through to people—and, God willing, he can get through to Bachelor Nation. My concern: How will The Bachelor treat Acho?
I’m a relatively new member of Bachelor Nation, but my love of reality TV goes deep. I’ve seen every episode of Vanderpump Rules at least three times; after yet another rewatch in quarantine, my partner’s sister convinced me that the illusive mix of villainy, ridiculousness, and earnest bad behavior that makes my love for VPR so strong also exists in the Bachelor franchise. And, hey, I had the time. One quarantine year roughly equals four regular life years, so I’ve been able to mainline quite a bit of the franchise. But watching almost a dozen seasons spread across The Bachelor, Bachelor in Paradise, and The Bachelorette in a relatively short period of time has shown me, again and again, that the franchise doesn’t take proper care of its Black contestants.
Pick a season, any season out of 40, and you’re likely to find objectionable behavior being inflicted on a member of the Black community. Let’s set aside the fact that it took 18 years for the show to feature a Black lead, instead opting to offer up a series of visually similar white dudes including Brad Womack twice. When we finally got Matt James this season, he spent a significant chunk of the first episode reminding Harrison, and all of us at home, that he was a biracial man raised by a white woman. While there’s nothing wrong with honoring both sides of someone’s dual ethnicity, it felt strange to watch the first Black Bachelor working overtime to remind us he was also white.