‘The Bachelorette’ Just Got Important

Laura Bradley
·3-min read
ABC
ABC

On Tuesday night, The Bachelorette delivered a genuine twist: The long-running, traditionally ultra-white ABC show got candid about race.

During an alternately sweet and intense one-on-one date, Bachelorette Tayshia Adams and contestant Ivan Hall discussed police brutality, the white homogeneity of Orange County, and the Black Lives Matter protests that have emerged since the police killing of George Floyd. Given the show’s traditional devotion to staying as apolitical as possible, Tuesday’s raw conversation was a striking departure—and a welcome one at that.

Ivan wrote and performed a charming serenade to win his alone time with Tayshia—bringing her onto the stage as a winning personal touch. Thanks to COVID, this season’s romantic outings are a bit limited—so the couple shared an intimate night in Tayshia’s suite, playing Floor is Lava and ordering a huge bowl of ice cream. (No, seriously. BIG!)

Honestly? I’d take this over a helicopter any day.

But soon enough, things got serious: As the two discussed their families, Ivan mentioned his younger brother, who spent four years in prison after dealing with substance abuse. “My brother went through some really dark times in prison,” Ivan said. “I was the only person he would really open up to about the stuff that goes on behind there. It’s crazy stuff.”

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George Floyd’s death, Ivan said, “really hit home for me. You can only imagine how much wilder it could be in prison, right? And my brother used to tell me stories of how these C.O.’s literally beat him up.”

“I felt so bad,” Ivan continued, “because my first question was like, ‘Well, Gabe, what did you do?’ But it doesn’t matter. Like, no matter what George Floyd did either way, or what my brother did, these people have a job to do, and they need to do it right. They can’t just be hurting people for no reason, you know? So it made me check myself.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Tayshia Adams and Ivan on <em>The Bachelorette</em></p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Craig Sjodin/ABC</div>

Tayshia Adams and Ivan on The Bachelorette

Craig Sjodin/ABC

When Ivan asked Tayshia how the events of this year have affected her personally, she grew quiet and tearful. “I don’t know,” the Bachelorette said. “Just the way that the world is right now, it’s just a lot. And it’s just overwhelming, and sometimes I feel like it affects me more than—”

“—you even know sometimes,” Ivan said, finishing her sentence.

After some encouragement from her date, Tayshia was able to share a little more of what’s been on her mind—specifically her upbringing in Orange County, where she was “surrounded by a lot of people that don’t look like me.”

“Being the only person that looks like me, I’m realizing that I’ve been trying so hard my whole life to blend in,” Tayshia said. “Because I knew I was different, you know?”

Hearing people chanting “Black Lives Matter,” Tayshia said, has hit her harder than she’d initially expected or realized. “Those are people in my backyard that I’ve been trying to prove for so long that I’m the same as them,” she said. Ivan told her that during his college years, he’d grown used to being called the “N-word” randomly as he was walking next to his campus.

“I never thought in my lifetime that so many people would come together for one common cause,” Tayshia said of Black Lives Matter. “It was so beautiful.”

Adams, this season’s second star after Clare Crawley’s abrupt exit, is the Bachelor franchise’s second Black Bachelorette. Rachel Lindsay became the first in 2017—although it’s worth noting that the show’s attempts to address race were ham-fisted at best and exploitative at worst. Next year Matt James will become the franchise’s first Black Bachelor. Hopefully as the franchise grows more diverse, it will continue to make room for these important conversations.

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