This season had a bullying problem. Now, “The Bachelor” seems to have slipped into an even worse problem: racism.
It’s safe to say this season of “The Bachelor” has been painful to watch. And I’m talking more painful than watching Peter Weber struggle through making a decision without his mom’s influence or discussing Colton Underwood’s fence jump and or virginity every four seconds.
“The Bachelor” this season first had a bullying problem, as I discussed on “The Journal On Air” earlier this semester. Now, it seems to have slipped into an even worse problem: racism.
Rachael Kirkconnell, an early frontrunner, had allegations of racism that weighed the latter half of the season down. After Reality Steve, a blogger notorious for spoiling “Bachelor” franchise seasons, revealed Kirkconnell as the winner, the allegations of her bullying women in high school for dating Black men, attending old-south antebellum parties, dressing up in costumes that appropriated different cultures and liking social media posts of friends in front of Confederate flags started pouring in.
These allegations led to Chris Harrison, host of “Bachelor” shows, to step away from the franchise after defending Kirkconnell’s actions in an interview. This action led to the uproar of a majority of “The Bachelor”’s audience. How can the host step away? They were decidedly “done with the show” if Harrison was gone.
But, it also revealed a nasty side: most of them were excusing Kirkconnell’s actions, dismissing the feelings of the Black community and saying they were done with the show since it had become “politically correct.”
Harrison’s leave of absence is not permanent — he will return and hasn’t given up his role as an executive producer. What’s alarming is the fact that people are up in arms defending a man when the focus should be on what we learn from this. The audience was choosing to ignore the bigger issue, turning into an argument about cancel culture rather than racism.
“The Bachelor” can and should do better. Its audience shouldn’t feel comfortable being hateful in its comments on social media or at ease enough to bully the first Black “Bachelorette” off of her Instagram account. In fact, “The Bachelor” should have taken its commitment to diversity more seriously. There was no excuse for a racist to end up on this historic season of “The Bachelor.” If random people on the internet can find Kirkconnell’s sketchy past, then I’m sure the producers could have, too.
The 25 Black, Indigenous and women of color came out on Instagram after Kirkconnell’s actions were revealed and posted about how hurt they were. Michelle Young, the new “Bachelorette,” was the one who posted on behalf of the women about the situation, saying “Any defense of racist behavior denies the lived and continued experiences of BIPOC individuals. These experiences are not to be exploited or tokenized.”
Young is a step forward for Bachelor nation’s misdeeds. She represents the epitome of grace and forgiveness, as she sat down on the “After the Final Rose” special with Kirkconnell to discuss her actions. Temporary host Emmanuel Acho told Kirkconnell that “all history is meant to be remembered, but not all history is meant to be celebrated” and it is a lesson I think all of Bachelor Nation could stand to learn — audience and contestants.