“The Bachelorette” contestant Lee Garrett has drawn attention for his history of offensive tweets and antagonistic behavior toward black cast members on this season of the show, but tensions came to a head on Monday night.
While, for the most part, this churning stew of racial animus was an unmitigated evil, it did bring viewers at least one valuable moment: One thoughtful contestant explaining to Garrett how anti-black racism endangers black men.
After Garrett told the show’s lead, Rachel Lindsay, that a black contestant, Kenny King, had been “aggressive” toward him, King confronted the smooth-talking Nashville resident about his insinuations. The conversation went nowhere, as Garrett continued to smilingly interrupt and condescend to King ― a method of infuriating his castmates that he admits to enjoying.
Later in the episode, however, Garrett had a conversation with Will Gaskins, another black contestant and one who very eloquently explained the problem with calling a black man “aggressive.”
Initially, Garrett attempted to win Gaskins to his side. ”[Rachel] asked me, she said, ‘Lee, so what’s going on with, you know, Kenny?’ And I was like, ‘Uh, he was being aggressive.’ I was just being honest ... what was your thought, when you heard that? Tell me that’s not aggressive.”
Gaskins remained calm, but wasn’t having any of it. “I’m not gonna say the words, man,” he responded, laughing.
“Why not?” said Garrett. “If you’re going to be honest.”
Instead of getting upset, Gaskins, who told the camera that he thought Garrett was simply ignorant and “totally out of his element,” attempted to educate his fellow contestant on the basics of racist rhetoric.
“When you call him aggressive,” Gaskins explained, “there is a long-standing history in this country of regarding black men in America as ‘aggressive’ to justify a lot of other things.”
Garrett’s response? “So he’s the guy who gets mad and plays the race card to justify everything he does, because he can’t control himself.”
Gaskins, ever patient, explained that King wasn’t pulling a race card, but was likely quite offended by a “very negative and potentially racially charged” use of the word.
His well-worded, succinct explanations clearly weren’t having much effect on Garrett, who once tweeted that the NAACP was as racist as the KKK.
Still, we salute Gaskins ― who, it should be noted, is also very cute, extremely good at handball, and reportedly reads “like six books a day.” He gave an excellent, reality-TV-ready primer on how casually painting black men as physically threatening can result in very real, often fatal consequences for those black men. For those “Bachelorette” viewers who have stuck with Lindsay’s season despite all these shenanigans, Gaskins’ words were either a welcome respite or a much-needed dose of social justice knowledge.
And for that, Bachelor Nation is grateful.
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