It's Not 'The Bachelorette' Contestants' Jobs To Teach Lee Not To Be Racist
It doesn't matter what Chris Harrison said, Rachel's season of The Bachelorette really only had one "testosterone-fueled" conflict: The multi-episode feud between Lee, the Southerner who was just there to play "cat and mouse," and Kenny, the wrestler and dad with a huge heart. When Kenny & Lee met again on The Bachelorette: Men Tell All special, the rest of the cast joined in to address Lee's behavior on the show and his history of tweeting totally inappropriate, bigoted comments. And while it's not The Bachelorette cast's responsibility to teach Lee, nor can they control whether or not he sincerely intends to change, they were able to voice their concerns and openly talk about what had just been hinted at earlier: Lee's racist comments — whether intended or not.
It was incredibly cathartic to see the many men of color onstage all sharing their different experiences with Lee, racist microaggressions, noticing his tweets, and watching the show. A racist person — or, at least, a person with a history of racism — should have never been among them, but it happened. Overall, The Men Tell All felt like a productive conversation for a mainstream network television series, if nothing particularly revolutionary. Of course, Lee shouldn't have needed almost 30 minutes of television to admit that comparing the NAACP and the KKK is wrong.
The rest of the men schooled Lee, in a tough but genuinely enthusiastic way, and it seemed like they all — from DeMario (who wasn't even there to witness any of his on-the-show feuds) to Kenny — had the chance to share how experiencing racism makes them feel. Even Anthony, who didn't get a chance to talk much during the show, asked Lee about unconscious bias: "Are your actions inspired by racist thoughts that are embedded into your mentality?"
On the show, Lee offered an apology after hearing from all the men and Rachel, saying, "Going through that, looking back at it, I want to apologize to you. I … took a situation that was very important to you and very important to a whole lot of people and I didn’t take that initiative to learn." But now that the confrontation is over, it's always important to remember: No one, not even a team of well-dressed single men, can stop someone from being racist. Nor is it their duty to do so.
If Lee makes more problematic comments in the future, that's his problem, not the Bachelorette guys'. They didn't fail to get through to him, he failed to listen to their genial, well-reasoned advice. The men approached the conversation completely genuinely, didn't hold back, and hopefully, if they couldn't reach Lee, perhaps reached some members of the audience. But, ultimately, The Bachelorette's job is to be an entertaining series about Rachel Lindsay looking for love, not to redeem Lee Garrett — and nobody owes him anything.