Is America ready for a black 'Bachelorette'?

OPINION - In the eight seasons of ABC’s 'The Bachelorette,' the bachelorettes have always been beautiful. They have always been intelligent. They have always been warm and friendly. They have also always been white...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

In the eight seasons of ABC’s The Bachelorette, the bachelorettes have always been beautiful. They have always been intelligent. They have always been warm and friendly. They have also always been white. But that is about to change if Misee Harris has her way. The 28-year-old African-American dentist is currently engaging in a social media campaign to be the first African-American bachelorette. Her potential candidacy prompts the question of whether America is ready to enthusiastically watch eligible men of all races compete for a black woman’s heart. I believe that — despite the fact that black women’s beauty and worth is often marginalized by the mainstream media — America is indeed ready. Hopefully ABC and the producers of The Bachelorette will recognize that.

Because, if there were ever a desirable bachelorette, it is Misee Harris, with her mix of beauty, brains and benevolence. The five-foot-6, 125-pound, brown-skinned beauty has dreamed of being a dentist since her early teens and she made that dream a reality by graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. She currently works as a pediatric dentist in her native state of Tennessee. Additionally, Misee Harris is filled with a desire to give back to under-served communities. She does just that by engaging in medical mission trips to the Appalachian mountains to provide children with dental care, mentoring young women in her community and working with autism-related charities.

As a romantic partner, Harris says that she is a loyal confidant who loves sports and is always willing to try new things.

Harris is also a die-hard fan of both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. When she heard of a casting call in Columbus, Ohio in June of last year for The Bachelor, she thought to herself, “I have nothing to lose, why not?” After attending the casting call and various call-backs, she was eventually invited to be one of the competing women on that show. But after much thought, Harris decided not to be the “token black girl” on The Bachelor, and to instead begin her own campaign to be the bachelorette.

“I realized that being the bachelorette would give me a better opportunity to find love and a stronger platform for all of my creative dreams and charity work,” Harris told me in a phone interview. “It also would allow me to inspire other black women and girls to dream big and know their worth.”

Harris immediately started a public figure Facebook fan page, and in the past few months has gained over 16,000 likes. She now receives countless supportive messages from fans of all genders, races, and ages.

When asked why she would like to be the next bachelorette, Harris responded that after spending the last ten years of her life wholly focused on academic and career pursuits, she is ready to dedicate time to her social and romantic ambitions. “I believe that we black women should have it all,” Harris said. “We can be successful and also meet a great guy. I want a man who is willing to be my life partner. A best friend that I can wake up and watch TV and eat cereal with. A guy who is just as ambitious as I am and his dreams will become my dreams just as my dreams become his. Most of all, a man who will be a good father figure to our future kids.”

But will Harris get an opportunity to search for that man on The Bachelorette? In its prior eight seasons, all of the bachelorettes were former contestants on The Bachelor. The show’s producers chose former contestants that did not win, but who were loved by fans of the show. That is one impediment. The producers of the show are well aware of her campaign, but it is unknown whether they are interested in selecting her.

Another hurdle would be the racial precedent. The producers have never cast a black person as the central bachelor or bachelorette, and this decision has not gone unnoticed. In April 2012 two black men, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, filed a racial discrimination suit against the show and its producers, stating that they and other people of color who have auditioned were not given an equal opportunity during the casting process. The show producers vehemently defended themselves and released a statement.