Embattled host of ABC’s moneymaker franchise The Bachelor, Chris Harrison has been weathering the controversy of his ill-fated appearance on Extra correspondent and former Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay’s TV segment, where the two had a fiery discussion about current Bachelor contestant Rachel Kirkconnell’s resurfaced social media posts.
The damning images confirmed her participation in a racist sorority formal back in 2018, and that discovery initiated the streak of bad press for a lucratively popular franchise that’s trying to restore its reputation by employing more diversity, with the first-ever Black Bachelor and Bachelorette, after decades of nonchalance.
Harrison’s attempt to diplomatically smoothen things over took a turn for the worse when he combatively tried to minimize the seriousness of Kirkconnell’s past transgressions, by humanizing her offensiveness with excuses for why what she did long ago is no longer relevant, or worth the danger of the online harassment she and her family are being subjected to.
There was not an ounce of empathy for Rachel Lindsay, a Black woman, whose historic presence on ABC’s most viable offering conveniently helped to activate the diversity plan.
It was distressing as a Black woman to watch another Black woman fighting against being devalued and for the validation of Blackness in the face of white privilege and the potency that never recognizes anything outside the supremacy of whiteness that must be defended at all costs.
Since that disastrous segment aired, the immediate backlash that followed forced Harrison to take a leave of absence from his hosting duties, and in the middle of his hiatus, the ABC staple issued an apology for his deplorable behavior.
However the damage is done, and for her her part, Lindsay didn’t waste any time confirming her imminent departure from Bachelor Nation when her contract is up.
Now we learn that after weeks away from the spotlight, Harrison is planning an apology tour that will reportedly take place on ABC’s Good Morning America, where he will sit down with Michael Strahan, and go through the generic script of taking accountability for his actions and promising to do better, since he’s had lots of time to THINK.
But is Chris Harrison really sorry, or is he hoping to swiftly put this shit show behind him, so he can get back to the business of blissfully dwelling his privilege?
If you ask E! Daily Pop co-host, Carissa Culiner, a white woman, and entertainment correspondent, who anchors the weekly shows, she would express her confusion about why Harrison’s apologetic stance that has included his temporary banishment, isn’t nearly enough to absolve his bad decision to stick up for a problematic contestant who has racist tendencies.
During the Wednesday segment, Culiner was outnumbered by fellow co-host Justin Sylvester and guest host, comedian Kim Whitley, who are both Black, and were visibly irritated with Culiner’s troubling defense of Harrison, whom she feels has already paid the price for his gross misstep.
Watching the tension-filled segment made my blood boil, and convinced me that as much as I would love to participate in televised roundtables that feature informative debates about hot-button issues, there’s no way I could submit to that regimen with white participants who are defiant about their unsightly ignorance.
No amount of money in the world could make me surrender my sanity at the risk of being exposed to the obstinate scorn of whiteness.
Culiner’s determination to make a case for her belief that Harrison has adequately paid his dues accordingly, was ironically a repeat of what got ABC’s prized talent in bad trouble in the first place, with his misguided argument in favor of giving Kirkconnell a break for her indefensible episode from long ago.
Kim Whitley managed to restrain herself, even as she politely tried to get Culiner to step out of her privilege and consider why Harrison’s comfortable punishment of “stepping aside” and “laying low” until the chatter stops, before resurfacing in a bid to cleanse his whiteness and stage a comeback isn’t really the definition of demonstrating genuine remorse.
Sylvester seems to have more of a familiarity with Culiner’s antics, which explains why he was able to keep his cool and speak his frustration through facial expressions that could be translated to mean — Here We Go Again!
For me, it was another prime example of why white allyship can’t happen with white privilege.
First off, it’s hard to believe that Chris Harrison is truly sorry for how he diminished the worth of a vulnerable Black woman for the duty of defending a white woman with a racist track record.
His demeanor throughout the heated conversation with Lindsay was quite hostile, and traitorously exposed his instincts as a privileged white man, who has had more than enough of the “woke mob.”
Instead of seizing the opportunity to turn that segment into a teachable moment, he ungraciously retaliated against Lindsay’s steadfast mandate about how the racist actions of white people don’t have expiration dates, and once discovered, needs to be fully addressed without exceptions.
At the end of the day, Harrison will survive this shaky season that at the very worst, deprived him of finishing his job duties as host, but his illustrious career will stay intact, and his accumulated wealth will continue to sustain his above average lifestyle.
But what Culiner, and other white folks who fiercely defend their own don’t ever consider, is how targeted communities can’t ever recover from the systemic violence and injustice that constantly threatens our survivability in a country that was rigged to terrorize our wellbeing and very lives.
E! Daily Pop filmed segments that acknowledged the horrific slaying of George Floyd, just days after we witnessed the unimaginable, and white co-hosts, seemed to be greatly affected by the graphic display of what white supremacy can manifest.
But it’s not enough to be moved to tears, and utter words of wisdom and support for the Black community, because your actions speak louder, and even though white folks mean well and actually believe they can be dependable allies, those best intentions are rarely showcased when opportunities arise.
As long as white privilege is the underlining theme that inspires the way white people approach the subject of racism — much-needed teachable moments that are meant to dismantle those defense mechanisms won’t have the power to uproot the evils of white supremacy.
Bottomline: If you can’t de-associate from your whiteness long enough to be uncomfortable with the assault on Blackness in ways that recalibrate your privilege — don’t even bother.