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What The "Bachelor In Paradise" Debacle Means To The Black Community

It's SO much more than just a scandal

When season 4 of ABC’s Bachelor in Paradise came to a screeching halt last month, the black community held its breath. Production on the Bachelor spinoff was put on hold amid allegations of sexual misconduct between two of the shows cast members while filming at a Mexican beach resort. Warner Bros., the distribution company behind the show, launched an internal investigation into the matter, which recently concluded that no wrongdoing had occurred on the show.

How does the black community fit into all of this? At the center of the controversial encounter was the 6-foot-4, African-American DeMario Jackson and pint-sized, blond-haired Corinne Olympios. Olympios claimed that she was the victim in the sexual encounter gone wrong, while Jackson claims that she was actually the ‘aggressor’.

If history tells us anything (and history has A LOT to say), it’s that such encounters typically favor the victim. Now wait, I already know what you’re thinking. How could this be true? In normal cases of sexual misconduct, our society is notorious for blames the female victim and favors the man in question. “She shouldn’t have been drinking.” and “What was she wearing?” are tropes typical of our victim-blaming rape culture. However, in the specific cases where a Black man and White woman are the two involved, we tend to deviate away from this norm, if only for a moment.

The incident between Jackson and Olympios, and others like it, echoes the case of Emit Till, the 12-year-old Black Mississippian who in 1950 was lynched for purportedly flirting with a white woman. This case, in particular, is ingrained into our collective Black consciousness. The narrative that rabid, sex-hungry Black men prey on innocent, angelic White women is one that was perpetrated by White slave owners and has stood the test of time to exist centuries later.

The incident between DeMario Jackson and Corinne Olympios made us all pray and hope that Warner Bros.’s internal investigation would clear Jackson’s name. It wasn’t that we necessarily wanted him to be innocent in spite of harming Corrine, but it was that DeMario was in a position where he represented the Black community; The Black community that is so desperately trying to distance itself away from the aforementioned stigma attached to the Black man.

Although filming has resumed on the show and DeMario was cleared of any sexual misconduct, this headline is so much more than your everyday, run-of-the-mill, scandal. The incident adds another drop to the metaphorical bucket where this stigma has, for centuries, collected and filled to the brim.

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Stefan is a student at Cornell University studying journalism.