The last time I watched ABC’s The Bachelor was when Bachelorette Trista Rehn found her prince in Ryan Sutter in a match made in heaven, that has rivaled the uneven track records of predecessors, two decades later.
For me, it became the tedious regimen of watching hysterical white girls freaking out over a dude they’ve never met, and will die for in a heartbeat. Since that quickly became an unappetizing nightly dish, I quickly made my exit, but there are still unavoidable updates, thanks to the trends of social media.
That’s how I learned about the latest controversy scorching the current season of the first-ever Black Bachelor, Matt James, via one of the top contestants vying for the blinding diamond ring and the televised proposal, that could lead to potential vehicles for her marathon search of unattainable happiness.
Rachel Kirkconnell’s promising trajectory came crashing down once the mechanisms of social engagement demonstrated the ire of the time machine that transports the guilty back to the unforgiving past.
It seems Kirkconnell attended the very racist antebellum plantation-themed fraternity gala back in 2018, and the glaring images serving as evidence of her participation in a disgracefully uncouth tradition that was never an acceptable gesture — regardless of eras — has been circulating the web and other channels like a ferocious fire.
Longtime staple and famed host of of ABC’s most prized franchise, Chris Harrison got himself burned after an ill-fated discussion about the alighted scandal with the first-ever Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, who was hosting a segment on the TV show Extra, went all the way left.
The combativeness of Harrison was the most off-putting aspect of his strong defense of a white woman, whom he described as “young” and therefore vulnerable to the trapdoor of willingly committing to a formal event, that’s steeped in historical orneriness, that’s not exactly hidden from the overt racism that birthed it and similar fare into existence
Aside from Kirkconnell’s album of pictorials placing her at the scene of her blissful ignorance, the hopeful white girl competing for the affection of the Black “Bachelor” has been documented “liking” posts on social media that depict pride and nostalgia for the Confederate flag, which is no shocker, considering her extracurricular activities.
Lindsay tried but failed, through no fault of her own to breakdown the tone-deaf, obstinance of the Bachelor host, who was more empathetic to the racist white girl being torn apart by raging critics, better known as the “woke mob” who are allegedly harassing Kirkconnell’s family members, among other acts of online spite.
When the former Bachelorette, who miraculously found the love of her life in the most unusual of places, thanks to ABC’s generosity, patiently emphasized why pictures from an Old South Antebellum party was clearly “not a good look.”
Harrison responded with the baton of his whiteness:
“Well, Rachel is it a good look in 2018? Or, is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference.”
White folks eventually out themselves for what they truly are, and that’s precisely why tangible allyship is almost impossible.
Lindsay’s demeanor throughout the exchange was visibly enraged with each passing minute of the brief but damning episode, but like the trooper she is, there was great restraint to not give power to the beloved trope that white folks like to label Black women, who have every reason in the world to be angry.
She fired back with the obvious argument for why you can’t a time frame to the audacity of celebrated bigotry:
“It’s not a good look ever.” “If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?”
Things did not end on a promising note, mainly due to Harrison’s inexcusable attempt at practiced heroism to swoop in and save the fragile honor of white victimhood, on behalf of the most valued asset in America — a white woman, who only issued an apology to fulfill PR obligations and secure the reassurance of her continued slot as the winning bride-to-be.
Days after the unfortunate back-and-forth, Rachel Lindsay expressed her disappointment and utter disgust at the way Harrison handled their on air conversation, and went as far as to confirm her decision to finally split from the star-making franchise, once her contract is up.
As always, when these uncomfortable debates take a terrible turn, the white perpetrator graciously announces plans to “step aside” or “step away” from the scene of his own shit show to reflect on why he wasn’t “ better informed,” and to promise “to do better” in the future.
“I took a stance on topics about which I should have been better informed. What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that I am so deeply sorry. I also apologize to my friend Rachel Lindsay for not listening to her better on a topic she has a first-hand understanding of, and humbly thank the members of Bachelor Nation who have reached out to me to hold me accountable. I promise to do better.”
Here’s the thing, we don’t need white people stepping away from the burning flames of the fire they started. It’s the overdone, generic display of cowardice, when it comes to seeking repentance that doesn’t come close to satisfactorily atoning for willfully deplorable conduct.
Instead of running away from fully taking responsibility for the mess you made all on your own, by ignoring the red flags and rejecting prime opportunities to prove standard assumptions of crippling white privilege — perhaps it’s better to take accountability under the same lenses that empower the viability of Bachelor Nation.
Chris Harrison wields an influentially sound platform, and it makes no sense that he can’t turn those money cameras on himself, in an effort to have a meaningful dialogue about race, as it pertains to how the disease of white supremacy prevented the inclusion of a Black Bachelor and Black Bachelorette for as long as it did, despite two decades devoted to thriving franchise, that appeals to a diverse audience.
“Stepping away” to protect the reputation of a beloved brand, while nursing your wounds from the stones thrown by the maddened crowd of disapprovers, is not how white folks illustrate their genuineness towards wanting to take ownership for defending racism out loud, by downplaying triggering effects unleashed on Black folks, who have to internalize yet another betrayal.
Harrison was more incensed by the shredding of a white woman, whose racist background has rightfully caught up with her, than he was about the pained disposition of the Black woman he was re-traumatizing with his outright refusal to unequivocally condemn the gross offensiveness of Kirkconnell’s actions.
It goes back to the “angry Black woman” narrative, aided by misleading cultural offerings that center Black women characters as either long-suffering matriarchs or bitterly insufferable partners. These assigned traits permeate in ways that set us up as not deserving of the same protections as white counterparts.
It’s beyond unbearable to watch Lindsay gracefully stand her ground against Harrison’s nonsensical argument in support of a white woman who has more than earned the repercussions from an error in judgement, that prove her bigotry, while she weathered the real-time virtual slap in the face that we, as Black women felt in unison.
Chris Harrison and his fellow white people, need to step up and stop running away from the gauntlet of public rehabilitation, because temporarily bowing out of the spotlight will never be the solution, it just extends a nagging issue that can’t be sufficiently addressed behind closed doors.
If The Bachelor can have bonus episodes where scorned contestants hash it out for the gaze of a studio audience — why can’t the problematic host experience his retribution in the same manner, if he’s really “deeply sorry” for “causing harm” with his callous words.