Rachel Linsday, the first black woman to be the Bachelorette, will start her search for love on May 22. Outside of a few contestants, the show has barely even ever engaged with the existence of people of color. So, when faced with a season that's actually contending with race, there's a few things not to do while talking about Rachel's Bachelorette season if you want to be a good, non-ignorant, non-embarrassing viewer and commentator. This goes for viewing parties, live-tweeters, people only watching the show because their roommates like it, and, if somehow a wormhole through time and space opens, even the men vying for Rachel's love.
I'm not trying to take the fun out of watching The Bachelorette — in fact, the goal is the exact opposite. Let's not waste the prospect of a season with Rachel, who, so far, is one of the more charming and level-heading people to ever pass through this bizarre, rose petal-covered franchise, by dealing with problematic, or worse, racist, conversation about the show. Fans haven't really had to contend with race on The Bachelor or Bachelorette before, so there's bound to be some questionable moments. Reading through the guidelines below should help.
Don't Use Racial Qualifiers
Here's one phrase I don't want to hear from anyone: "Rachel is [blank]... for a black girl." Qualifying things this way may not seem overtly racist, but to somehow suggest that there's somehow a separate scale for judging the beauty, brains, and talents of black women, absolutely is.
Avoid Too Many Comments About Her Hair
I feel for Rachel, since there's often so many impromptu trips to the beach and athletic challenges, but she managed to get through her season of The Bachelor looking great. The occasional callout of a weird style, or, of course, compliments about how great she looks? Fine. Constantly dissecting how her hair looks at every opportunity? Don't test it.
Don't Talk About Mixed-Race Babies
First of all, it's just weird to talk about babies at all in the context of The Bachelorette since, one, these people just met, and, two, there's a statistically low chance that these couples are making it to baby territory. But it's particularly gross to talk about how, if Rachel chooses one of the many white guys cast on the show, that they'll have "the cutest" babies. Don't fetishize mixed-race babies — it reinforces colorism that considers white features more appealing than black ones, and it's just weird.
Remember Microaggressions Exist
There's overt racism and then there are microaggressions. For instance, there's those who would boycott or complain about Rachel being on the show or would send abusive, racial epithet-filled messages. But there's also subtler issues, like assuming stereotypes about the more-diverse-than-usual cast based on their racial backgrounds, or subconsciously considering this the "black" season of the show. Don't do any of these things.
For The Love Of All That Is Holy, Do Not Co-Opt The Language Of Protest Movements
I live in fear that someone will unironically start the hashtag "#BachLivesMatter" and I will never be able to look the internet in the eyes again.
Don't Read Into The Season Too Deeply
Remember that on every season of this show, the competitors wind up fighting over who's here for "the right reasons," someone who seems normal winds up flaming out and doing something absurd, and an eccentric "villain" emerges. These things aren't attributable to race — they're attributable to reality TV.
And Lastly, When In Doubt, Don't Say It
Are you unsure about what you're going to joke about to your pals at a viewing party or on your timeline as you live-tweet one of the show's two-hour episodes? Do you think that only people who aren't "politically correct" will find your comment funny, or have a sneaking suspicion that it might make black readers angry? Don't play yourself.