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Big Brother's Julie Chen Responds To Racism Claims About The Cookout Alliance

screenshot big brother 23
(Image credit: CBS)

Some Big Brother 23 spoilers are ahead for recent episodes, so tread carefully!

Big Brother 23 has already made history with its six Black contestants in “the Cookout” alliance making it to the final eight. It's never been done before and there's certainly never been a final winner who was Black, either. Nevertheless, the alliance's strategy to forward their six members at any cost (including voting out those they're actually close with) has led to certain claims amongst fans that the group is racist. Host Julie Chen recently responded to the backlash surrounding the Cookout’s strategy, and she's not on board with that argument.

The alliance itself consists of Azah Awasum, Derek Frazier, Xavier Prather, Kyland Young, Hannah Chaddha and Tiffany Mitchell, and each Houseguest has spoken on camera about the importance of The Cookout's existence. It would seem that Big Brother’s Julie Chen agrees, and in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she denied that racism is a factor here. She said:

I think it's hard for some people who are not of color to understand the importance of the Cookout making it this far. I have heard some call the formation of the Cookout a form of racism. In my humble opinion, it is not. As a fan of the show, it's impressive to see an alliance this big make it this far. That rarely happens.

It's certainly important to consider the history of race and racism in TV media when thinking about these claims surrounding Big Brother 23. In reality television shows in particular, Black representation is consistently criticized for being either completely stereotypical or completely nonexistent, with a few degrees of differences in between. Only last year did CBS commit to diversifying its Big Brother and Survivor casts more than the show have in the past. Droves of Black people advocating for themselves have clearly moved the dial, even if it doesn't always guarantee victories.

It would seem that Julie Chen thinks that the Cookout is a means of rectifying a past that, up until now, saw Big Brother’s few-and-far-between Black players being voted out without much of a second thought from others, because they were always left on the outside of majority alliances. It should be pointed out, too, that these claims of racism could imply that the members of the Cookout believe they are superior to the others competitors in the house, which is plainly not true.

That said, it hasn't been an easy road for the Cookout alliance when it comes to its own members getting along. Tiffany Mitchell – my front runner to win Big Brother 23 who is apparently managing a secret showmance – has clashed with Azah Awasum and Derek Frazier in previous episodes, but she really angered the whole group when she went against the consensus to throw the most recent HOH, in order to save her friend Claire Rehfuss. Now the Cookout is contemplating moving away from thinking with a group mentality to the more individual game that Mitchell is leaning into.

Regardless of Tiffany Mitchell’s change of direction, it is still pretty clear that Big Brother 23 will have its first Black winner this year. Tune into new episodes on CBS (or read our spoilers on it) every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday to find out how it all plays out.

Lauren Vanderveen

I am a vegan feminist. I'm fascinated by all things space/stars. I love film history, reality television, and my cat Bubbe.