On Monday night's episode of The Bachelor, the highly anticipated hometown dates installment, the proverbial elephant in the room (Rachel is black and Nick is white) was addressed ever so bluntly by Rachel’s mother — and with good reason. An interracial relationship is difficult to navigate for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, Nick and the show in general didn't shy away from addressing that. In a world where far too many white people still say, "I don’t see color," Nick and The Bachelor touched on the realities of interracial relationships — though there is definitely more to explore than what can be addressed in a single evening.
Here’s the thing — women of color, and specifically, in this instance, black women, want you to see their color. It’s a huge part of who we are. It makes up everything about our culture that we celebrate and is unique to who we are as a people. When white people diminish this by chirping "I don’t see color," they think they’re being progressive, but really it’s an act of erasure. The fact is, it is probably a disappointing and familiar response for Rachel to hear, so I'm sure she valued that Nick acknowledged her instead of pretending her skin color didn't exist. Especially given the fact that Rachel took Nick to a black Baptist church in her hometown of Dallas, a cornerstone of black culture, it was clear she did want him to see her race. Of course, we know Nick and Rachel don't end up working out — as she's our next leading lady. Rachel is an exciting Bachelorette choice for a number of reasons, including her blackness, but I’m really excited to see her find a man that is willing to go to bat for her and acknowledge and celebrate who she is as a black woman.
As someone who is in an interracial relationship, that issue is paramount to me, because my strength, my personality, my passions are rooted in being a black woman. I want a partner who is going to see that in me and realize that, as we navigate this world together, it isn’t always going to be about his comfort, but my safety. I’m happy to say that I do feel loved and supported in that regard.
My boyfriend went to college in a rural area in western Pennsylvania. He had many friends and peers who, given his chosen career field, I assumed were progressive. It wasn’t until after a visit, when I returned home he mentioned on the phone that someone had casually mentioned to him that they liked me because I wasn’t like “regular black people." He was far angrier than me about the situation, and I laughed it off because it wasn’t (and wouldn’t) be the first time I had heard that said about me. White friends had straight up said it to my face in the past — as if it were a compliment! (It isn’t.)
In that environment, and in our home state of New Jersey, we’ve encountered a flurry of racism both overt and hidden — the later of which may be the most infuriating. It’s the passing stares and whispers, the slight microaggressions and assumptions. I didn’t even know until somewhat recently that an adult white male — a professor no less — had told my boyfriend that I must be a “freak” in the bedroom because I was black. My boyfriend was deemed as “cool” and “down” in school because of his black girlfriend. In their eyes, my blackness was weaponized for his social gain. He fought back against this, and didn’t even reveal most of it to me until recently to protect my feelings, but the sad truth is I wasn’t surprised by it at all.
I know from experience that you don’t just want a partner who supports and “understands” your blackness because they are in a relationship with you (cue the tired phrase: “I’m dating a black person, so I can’t be racist”), but someone who understands the collective struggle of black people and people of color. I wouldn’t want to be with anyone I couldn’t talk about police brutality with, or diversity in TV with, black or white. Had Rachel gotten the final rose would she have been able to discuss these issues further with Nick? Her hometown date touched on the struggles interracial couples face, but the conversation they started is really only the beginning.
I anticipate audience complaints on Rachel’s Bachelorette season having “too much focus on race,” and I also anticipate those complaints coming from white people. Rachel would have every right to prod about race when courting her men. It’s very easy for white people to not have to think about it when your whiteness is a non-issue. I remember last summer a simple Old Navy ad featuring an interracial couple was viciously attacked on Twitter by some people who called it "racial genocide" among other things. It depicted a white husband, black wife, and biracial child smiling and wearing moderately priced fast fashion. This is the world black people are up against every day.
Surprisingly, in nearly a decade together, I’ve never had a moment where I was disappointed or angered by my partner's opinion on racial issues — and it’s a subject we talk about constantly (we like to!). I have had to school his friends many a time. I remember a very sincere and earnest pal gently asking me about weaves which spurred a whole conversation about black hair. And, that’s the thing, what black woman would want a partner who is relatively ambivalent about her culture, when black culture is so damn cool? There is so much to explore and discuss, so much of black culture embedded in modern society, what kind of man would want to miss out on that? Here's hoping Rachel's season is full of men who understand that, and, most importantly, who see her, blackness and all.