Bachelor Nation speaks out about its diversity problem

Peter Weber's season of The Bachelor promises plenty of turbulence as the pilot looks for love and possibly even engages in a revived romance with former Bachelorette Hannah Brown. However, casting decisions for the upcoming season — specifically, the choice to bring Weber back as the man in the middle of the action — have stirred up conversations about the show's lack of diversity.

In December 2019, Entertainment Tonight asked Weber, who is half Latino and of Cuban descent but is light-skinned and passes as white, about the situation. He didn't attempt to deny that there is an issue that "has to be brought up." Instead, he told ET that the question is "totally fair" and that he "totally gets where everyone's coming from."

When it comes to the fact that Weber was chosen as the Bachelor this time around, he explained that he "didn't make this decision" (although, to be fair, he did agree to go on the show). However, he did admit there was a potential contender who was both popular and would have helped with the diversity issue: former Bachelorette contestant Mike Johnson. "Mike would've been a great bachelor," Weber told ET. And he's certainly not the only one who thinks so.

Mike Johnson says it's time for "a black Bachelor"

Peter Weber isn't the only one who's spoken about Mike Johnson's potential to be the Bachelor. Johnson himself has opened up about his thoughts on the role as well as the lack of diversity on the show.

In July 2019, Johnson told The Hollywood Reporter that it's "100 percent time to have a black bachelor." He also discussed getting passed over for the gig, telling Entertainment Tonight in September 2019, "I can only speak on my personality and the wonderful man that I am. I do know that Peter and I are two completely different people — both good people, kind-hearted people. But I do feel that I'm a bit more outspoken than Peter. I'm a bit louder than Peter is. I have tattoos, and the obvious, I'm black, so we are very diverse and different in that regard as well."

Johnson also brought up the fact that there's a need for a wider range of cast members from all backgrounds. "I think of diversity more than just black and white. And yes, Peter has a Cuban mom, but let's just be honest — he's white, right? And that's just being completely transparent," he said. "I think that there should be an Asian lead, an Indian lead... diversity is not just black and white. It's not just salt and pepper." Variety is the spice of life, as they say.

Former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay has been vocal about diversity

At the time of this writing, former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay is the first and only person of color to lead one of the franchise's shows. Since her season wrapped, Lindsay has been very vocal about the fact that there needs to be more diversity when it comes to choosing the lead.  "I think Peter [Weber] seems like a very nice guy. He seems lovely. This is absolutely nothing against him," Lindsay told Entertainment Tonight in September 2019 while discussing Weber's casting. "But how many Peters have we seen before? What season are we on? 24. So, we've seen 24 Peters. I'm bored. And it's nothing personal against him."

"I want to be hopeful, but when you have a contestant like Mike Johnson, who seems to check all the boxes, how is he not the Bachelor? I don't understand," Lindsay continued. "[T]he system isn't working in giving us a Bachelor who is a person of color. So we need to change the system. Something has to be done. Break the rules, step outside the box, give the people what they want!"

Lindsay also told Insider that the show's habit of choosing from past contenders is keeping things from progressing, saying, "I think the system has to change, I think they're just going to have to go back and do what they used to do in the beginning where they used to choose people outside of the franchise to be the lead." That may not be a bad idea at all.

Those in charge claim change is coming to The Bachelor franchise

While improvements around diversity seem to be slow-going when it comes to The Bachelor, those who pull the strings say that change is indeed happening. In August 2019, ABC president Karey Burke claimed that the network is attempting to take the necessary steps in order to fix the problem. "I do think that the show has worked hard to increase diversity in casting," Burke said, according to CNN. "And, as that evolves, we'll continue to see more diversity in the franchise."

The franchise's longtime host Chris Harrison addressed the situation back in 2017 while chatting with The Hollywood Reporter. However, at the time, he asserted that ensuring diversity wasn't as important as choosing an ideal candidate to be their star. "I would like to cast the right man. If that man happens to be an African-American, an Asian, a Latino man, then great! But that isn't as important as finding the right man or the right woman," he said. "And that you're not so hung up on making history or breaking down barriers that you're not also making the right choice. I would hate to disregard a fantastic man or woman just because they don't fit into a box. Hopefully, we pick the right man and if he happens to be African-American, let's do it." 

Only time will tell if choosing the "right man" includes taking diversity into consideration in the future. Otherwise, this franchise will more than likely continue to face (seemingly justifiable) criticism.