It’s safe to say that 2017 was the year that the Bachelor franchise finally decided to join the rest of the entertainment industry by at least trying to diversify its cast and enter the discourse about race in our culture. It didn’t rush into things and started with a baby step: for the first time ever on Nick Viall’s season, a Black woman received the coveted first impression rose. That same Black woman, Rachel Lindsay, made it to the final four, and her hometown date sparked the first wave of serious conversations about interracial dating among Bachelor Nation (and critics). After establishing herself as a fan-favorite for her level-headedness, Lindsay then became the franchise’s first Black lead on the most recent season of The Bachelorette, ushering in one of the most racially diverse contestant pools that the franchise has seen. The ongoing season of Bachelor in Paradise — which pulls contestants from previous seasons of Bachelor and Bachelorette — has reaped the benefits of this push with a total of five Black participants. What’s more is that finally, the franchise is providing viewers — albeit unintentionally, it seems — with an example of Black love.
Dominique Alexis is a Black woman from Los Angeles who made her debut on Viall’s season of The Bachelor. An early dismissal, Dominique — monikered Dom — didn’t get much air time, which isn’t atypical for Black contestants on the franchise. Diggy, a Black man from Chicago, had some better luck on Lindsay’s season of The Bachelorette in that he was able to wrangle a fan base for himself (which included me, for the record). Still, I would have been grateful to see more of him and thought he was sent home a bit prematurely.
Now, Dom and Diggy appear to have found something special in each other on Bachelor in Paradise. They exchanges roses, kisses, and flashcards in their rendition of the love story. And honestly, it’s refreshing as hell to see a Black couple prospering on a show that has reserved romanced for those with less melanin.
Search #BlackLove on Instagram, and you will be bombarded with pictures of Black couples getting engaged, married, having children, or just looking great together. There are Black parents and families. There are memes theorizing on the importance of Black people loving one another, romantically and otherwise, and relationship experts advertising services to help them do it. Black love defines the unique experience of partnership and romance within Black relationships. For example, the cute and impromptu dance that Eric and Rachel did when they first met was more than a sign of compatibility, it was a mutual recognition of an unspoken form of expression among Black people. Cultural codes like this are not only an important commonality for Black people in love, they can act as an entryway for deeper intimate connections.
Despite having a Black Bachelorette and more Black contestants than ever before in the last few seasons, Bachelor Nation has failed to give us a deeper glimpse at Black love until now. With no Black leads before Lindsay, every Black person on the show was vying for the love of someone non-Black. And even Lindsay herself ended up engaged to Bryan Abasolo, who is Colombian, and his biggest competition was Peter Kraus, a white guy. She clearly wasn’t as into Eric Biggeer, the Black contestant that made it to the final four on her season. The Bachelor franchise has fallen into the easy trap of including Black people while failing to show their connections to Black culture.
Diggy, with his on-point analysis of racial politics, and Dom, with her water-ready twists, offer viewers a promising alternative to the fairytale love story that the show has been selling fans for nearly two decades. As far as I’m concerned, their blossoming romance is the most interesting thing happening on the show right now. It’s probably the most naturally progressive thing that has happened since I was tricked into watching, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
If Dom and/or Diggy are reading this, though: no pressure.