Viewers who tuned in to the Bachelor in Paradise premiere finally saw what happened between DeMario Jackson and Corinne Olympios on that fateful day in the pool. Well, to be specific, we saw an edited version of how they ended up in the pool, and what happened in the first few minutes. The short answer from what we saw was: nothing. They giggled with each other and cuddled a little bit. It’s true that we may never know exactly what happened between the two of them to prompt a producer to file a complaint of misconduct. I’m okay with that. I don't think airing footage of a sexual encounter between individuals so that millions of viewers can decide for themselves if there was foul play is the most productive course of action. But based on a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, it seems like Jackson was fully prepared for it to come down to that. And he had a pretty good idea of how to do it.
When interviewer Jackie Strause asked Jackson for his thoughts on how race played a part in this situation that caused production of this season of BiP to be shut down for nearly two weeks, he had a pretty thorough answer. But most notably he shared some numbers. “Trust me, there were four Black people on that entire island, three cast mates and one producer.” This isn’t a surprise to anyone who is familiar with franchise’s history of not including nearly enough Black people. But the racial dynamics of the island are important in this situation. It can be difficult to navigate mostly white spaces as a Black person, and when racial biases work against you, it can be downright isolating.
Knowing this, Jackson made sure to build an ally with at least one of the other three Black people there. And unlike his fellow contestants who were trying to sweet talk themselves into a rose, he didn’t have to say a single word. “Luckily that producer followed me over [to the pool with Corinne] because I gave him the look,” Jackson recalled of the lone Black producer. “He followed me over with cameras.” I imagine that this look is the same one I gave a passenger in my car when I was pulled over so that she could silently start filming. It’s the same look someone might give me if they’re trying to argue for a refund it that store. It’s a silent plea for solidarity, a wordless asking of “will you help me if I need it?” Most Black people in this country are familiar with this look.
And it seems most likely that this is what saved this bad situation from taking an even worse turn. Olympios never accused Jackson of any wrongdoing against her. Obviously, Jackson himself has maintained his innocence throughout the entire saga. But ultimately it wasn’t until Warner Bros. hired an outside team to investigate the incident — which included reviewing all of the footage — that Jackson was fully cleared when they found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Jackson had quite a bit to say about the current racial climate of our country in the interview, and it’s worth taking a look. He understands exactly which cards were stacked against him in this situation, and why. With Black bodies constantly at risk of violence, death, or unwarranted policing by superiors and law enforcement, this smart tactic of calling upon members of one’s own minority community to protect them from potentially dangerous situations is something more people need to employ.