Rachel Lindsay Reacts to Matt James Being Named First Black Bachelor: It's 'Lovely' but 'Rushed'
Rachel Lindsay said it's as though "a man had to die in such a gruesome and public way for us to get a black Bachelor," noting George Floyd's tragic death
Rachel Lindsay thinks it's "lovely" that Matt James has been named the first black Bachelor — but she also feels the decision was both "rushed" and a "knee-jerk reaction" to pressure put on the franchise by society to be more diverse and inclusive.
On Friday, after it was revealed on Good Morning America that James, 28, will be the franchise's new leading man, Lindsay opened up about the decision, expressing her excitement but also disappointment.
"Juliet, I wish I could emulate your sentiment," Lindsay, who made history as the first black female lead of the ABC franchise for season 13 of The Bachelorette in 2017, began on Juliet Litman's podcast Bachelor Party as Litman screamed for joy over the big news.
"Don't get me wrong, it is lovely that there is a black Bachelor. It is great, but let's get in to the but," said Lindsay.
"I have been very vocal about the fact that we need a black Bachelor. This is not because of the movement. I always have to say that. I have always pushed for diversity. It's just black voices are being amplified in a way that they have never been before ... and now people are paying attention," Lindsay, 35, continued.
Lindsay shared that she feels the franchise naming James as the next Bachelor was the "bare minimum."
"The fact that there are a list of things I have requested and this petition that's on Change.org, and the bare minimum was done, which seems to be so simple, right? Just give us a black Bachelor? That's what you do? It's a Band-Aid. It's the easiest thing to me that you can do and I hate that it's in response — or it seems like a knee-jerk reaction to what happened in our society, what happened with George Floyd and the pressure that you're getting from society," she said, noting the tragic death of George Floyd.
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Lindsay said it's as though "a man had to die in such a gruesome and public way for us to get a black Bachelor."
"That's what it feels like. That's the reaction," Lindsay added.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, executive producers of The Bachelor acknowledged their "responsibility for the lack of representation of people of color on our franchise and pledge to make significant changes to address this issue moving forward."
"We are excited to move forward with both Matt James as the new Bachelor and Clare Crawley as our next Bachelorette. We acknowledge our responsibility for the lack of representation of people of color on our franchise and pledge to make significant changes to address this issue moving forward," the statement reads. "We are taking positive steps to expand diversity in our cast, in our staff, and most importantly, in the relationships that we show on television. We can and will do better to reflect the world around us and show all of its beautiful love stories."
From Litman's perspective, she is happy about this major step, pointing out that "there was no buildup."
"It was buried in the second hour," Litman said of the Good Morning America reveal. "They didn't lead with Matt. The segment began with context and they talked to you and then got to Matt. I thought that was strange. Let's put the man in front of the people right away. That's the part of being on board with the first black Bachelor."
Lindsay explained that she believes the decision was "rushed."
"I think your point about the rollout is very valid. I think it's reflective of how this was rushed," Lindsay said, adding that she also thought it was odd that the announcement focused so much on James' friendship with Tyler Cameron.
"Is that why he was chosen? [Because] he was best friends with Tyler? The fact that he's involved with charitable work is way more important," Lindsay added.
James and Cameron — who was a contestant on Hannah Brown's season 15 — run the charity organization ABC Food Tours together.
Lindsay also spoke to GMA and explained that more work needs to be done.
"I want producers of color," she said. "I would like for them to cast leads that are interested in dating outside of their race, aren't just getting their experience for the first time on national TV. I need the acknowledgement of that, not putting a Band-Aid over the situation and just saying, 'Here, we're gonna put this here, are you happy now?' "
James has spoken out in support of Lindsay, telling GMA, "When Rachel speaks, we listen. She has a very important voice in all this, being the first black woman, person of color to be a lead, and ... this is hopefully the first of many black men to be in the position I'm at now."
"It's an honor. I'm just going to lean into myself and how my mom raised me, and hopefully when people invite me into their homes on Monday night ... they see that diverse love stories are beautiful," he added.
After James was announced as the next Bachelor, Karey Burke, the president of ABC Entertainment, released a statement promising to continue to take action when it comes to diversity.
"We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we're seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in and we are proudly in service to our audience," she said. "We will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first black Bachelor, and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him."
James' new role comes after Bachelor Nation called for more diversity in the franchise — rallying around a new petition that called on ABC and executive producer Mike Fleiss to cast more people of color.
The petition, which has garnered more than 84,000 signatures as of Friday morning, called the franchise's lack of diversity "unacceptable" and noted that in 40 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Lindsay has been the only black lead. (Mike Johnson was a contender to become the first-ever black Bachelor last season, but Peter Weber, who is half-Cuban, got the gig.)
Prior to being named the new Bachelor, James was previously cast as one of Clare Crawley's Bachelorette contestants.