by Nikki Idelson ’22 A&E Staff
Within the past week, Chris Harrison, the host of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, has come under fire for defending racist behavior that current contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, openly displayed in the past. According to Cosmopolitan, following the first episode, which aired on Jan. 4, TikTok user Maddy Bierster “accused Rachael of teasing her in the past for liking black men.” Bierster made another video shortly after in which she showed seven messages that she had allegedly received from various individuals claiming that Kirkconnell had also bullied them in both high school and college. In February, pictures emerged on Twitter of Kirkconnell attending what is known as an “Old South” antebellum-themed fraternity formal in 2018, at Georgia College & State University. The two photos depict Kirkconnell and her friends dressed up in southern belle dresses. Elizabeth Boyd of New York Times notes that these parties are “signs of nostalgia for a bygone, segregated South and all its attendant privileges,” and that they characterize Southern sorority life.
Fans of The Bachelor have shown their outrage and disgust with Kirkconnell by speaking out against her actions through social media. However, it was Chris Harrison’s response to the allegations that resulted in many Bachelor fans boycotting the show altogether. In an interview done by Extra on Feb. 9 with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, Harrison essentially defended all of Kirkconnell’s actions. Lindsay asked Harrison to comment on the photos of Kirkconnell attending the Old South party, to which he answered, “Well Rachel, is it a good look in 2018, or not a good look in 2021?” Lindsay responded by saying, “It’s not a good look ever. She’s celebrating the Old South, which is not okay.” Harrison then used the argument that “50 million people did that in 2018, that was a type of party that a lot of people went to,” and continued to question if this lens was available in 2018, and if “we were all looking through it in 2018?”
These insensitive and harmful comments have led many Bachelor fans to criticize Harrison. In a Feb. 10 Instagram post, he responded to the backlash, saying, “I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology. . .What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that I am deeply sorry.” Harrison has since announced that he will be stepping back from the franchise for an unknown period of time. Kirkconnell issued her own apology shortly after Harrison. However, it is clear that this apology in no way excuses the racist behavior she has exhibited in the past. It is evident that racism continues to manifest even on mainstream national television. Despite the progress that has been made, it is not nearly enough, as can be seen through the actions of Kirkconnell and Harrison. Racism continues to prevail through various micro-aggressive behaviors, this incident being one of many. With such a diverse public audience, television personalities must use their platforms to begin dismantling racism instead of perpetuating it.