“My ignorance was racist and I’m just ashamed”

The Bachelor franchise is no stranger to controversy, and after being embroiled in a racial scandal in recent years, the ABC dating show addressed the controversy between the contestants head-on in the latest episode.

Greer Blitzer is a contestant on the current season of The Bachelor, which stars leading man Zach Shallcross. Before the season premiere, Reddit users uncovered previous tweets from 2016 in which Blitzer defended wearing blackface. The reality star apologized on her own social media in January for the racially insensitive tweets, but the show had not addressed the controversy until now.

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On Tuesday’s episode of The Bachelor: Women Tell All , host Jesse Palmer put Blitzer in the hot seat and asked her to respond to the backlash regarding her “disturbing” and “disturbing” posts to a studio audience.

“The truth is, as a franchise, we’ve done a very poor job in the past of dealing directly with serious topics, and we’re not going to miss that opportunity tonight,” Palmer said.

“I wanted to look into that. I don’t want to sweep it under the rug,” Blitzer told Palmer. “What happened is racist. It’s not about the intention; it’s about the impact.”

The Blitzer scandal surfaced last year after The Bachelor season 27 cast was announced. In his old tweets, Blitzer defended a high school student for wearing blackface, allegedly tweeting in 2016, “Participants didn’t even know what blackface was, so my point is accurate. This was not an intentional act of racism. Another alleged tweet read: “This previous incident was dumb, not racist? She didn’t paint herself black because she felt better than black people.” And in another, Blitzer allegedly wrote: “Putting white powder on your face is not good either. Didn’t that make the news?

On Tuesday night’s episode, Blitzer explained, “This acquaintance of mine who I knew was doing blackface is racist, me defending him was racism, my ignorance was racism and I’m just ashamed.”

“I am deeply sorry for hurting the black community,” she said. “I can not turn back time. All I can do is try to be better now and try to do better in the future.”

Blitzer said she educated herself, lectured and worked with Dr. Kyra Banks, a diversity, equity and inclusion professor and consultant. Dr. Banks sat in the audience for Women Tell All and addressed the larger issue, talking about taking real action versus performative words.

“I really wanted to dive deep into the history of blackface and understand why it’s wrong, why it’s offensive. The research that I was able to do, I found out that it was symbolic of dehumanizing the black community,” Blitzer said. “What I said was wrong,” she added. “The defense of this girl was racist. I want to take that responsibility, I don’t want to justify it.

This certainly isn’t The Bachelor’s first run-in with controversial contestants who have troubled pasts. Over the years, viewers have questioned the franchise’s background check process, especially in the age of social media.

On the final season of “The Bachelorette,” which aired last year, winner Erich Schwer was at the center of controversy for wearing blackface when a photo of him from his high school yearbook surfaced online. He apologized on social media for what he called an “insensitive photo.” In an interview with DiversityBachelorette star Gabby Windy (who is no longer in a relationship with Schwer) said: “He apologized, but at the end of the day, there really is no excuse for this behavior.”

Season 25 of The Bachelor, which stars Matt James and airs in 2021, saw an explosive scandal involving winner Rachel Kirkconnell that eventually led to the departure of veteran host Chris Harrison (who was then replaced by Palmer ). James was the first black star on the long-running show, and he fell in love with Kirkconnell, who ended up at the center of a racially insensitive controversy. During the season, photos from 2018 surfaced on social media showing her attending an official fraternity meeting dedicated to an antebellum plantation. Harrison defended Kirkconnell in an already infamous TV interview conducted by former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, who was the franchise’s first black star, where he used the term “woke police”. He apologized for “misspeaking in a way that perpetuates racism,” but the messy situation never died down and Harrison eventually left the franchise. (Today, James and Kirkconnell are still happily together.)

And in 2017, when Lindsay’s historic season aired, making her the first black lead in “The Bachelor” franchise, one of her contestants had racist and sexist tweets on social media.

Blitzer received the first Shallcross impression rose of the season, meaning she was an early favourite. She was sent home in last week’s episode, so she’s no longer in the competition. She appeared on “Women Tell All,” which brings the cast members together to discuss (and bicker) about the season’s drama.

Immediately after Blitzer’s conversation aired, many social media users praised Blitzer and “The Bachelor” for apologizing and not dancing around the conversation. Others criticized the contestant for having to talk to a DEI consultant to understand that defending a black person is racism.

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