Earlier this week, The Bachelorette men told all in a lead up to the show’s August 7 season finale. Bachelorette Rachel is the first black person to be the primary object of desire within the franchise. The milestone raises multiple questions about race in America. Why is it so stressful to join the “Black Firsts” list (even in relatively trivial areas)? To what degree are modern audiences accepting of interracial dating and marriage? Why is it so rare to see such a diverse group of normal black guys on television?
Any of those topics could be explored. But why not stick to the one at the center of the Men Tell All special (and the whole season)? Of course, I’m referring to the Lee versus Kenny storyline. It illustrates much of what’s wrong in Trump’s America. Let’s consider each of the players.
I have to start here. The network created a show requiring 30 single men to compete for the love of one woman. If the contestants break the rules and go outside the house, they will find many other women to choose from. It is possible that there are no suitable matches within walking distance of their front door. But modern technology allows them to travel to locations that have larger pools of single women. If worse came to worse, they could even buy a robotic woman from a factory.
Essentially, a corporation and members of the 1 percent convinced everyday Americans that 1) a resource is limited and 2) they must compete for it. In reality, the resource is not limited. Should it ever become limited, human ingenuity could reduce the need for competition. This artificial competition scenario led to racial conflict and unnecessary strife.
This is the classic struggle over jobs and other resources that has defined our nation for generations.
Perhaps the racial conflict between Kenny and Lee is a form of entertainment? I can attest to at least one thing. The drama momentarily distracted my attention away from other issues that benefit the rich at the expense of everyone else. While the show has been airing, GOP members of Congress almost passed healthcare legislation and began a tax reform process. This show was so distracting that I’m writing about it now. If some people actually click open this article and read it, they are also distracted.
Country music singer Lee, who is white, was at the heart of the controversy. He played innocent to Bachelorette Rachel and his fellow contestants. But, in his confessionals, he revealed he was deliberately antagonizing one of the black bachelors. Kenny was trying to be Lee’s friend. So why all the acrimony?
Lee did let something slip: “They may think I’m a dumb hick, but . . .” Wait! What? Where did that come from? And what does it have to do with Kenny? The comment seemed to come out of nowhere. Yet nothing ever does. Academics like Nancy Isenberg are able to describe a rich history of negative perceptions about poor whites. Long before the birth of our country, the group was considered intellectually inferior.
You have to wonder how this affects a people?Black people have some experience in this area. Many respond by disproving the label. Working twice as hard and being twice as good has long been a cliché. Do white people do the same? Long ago, America gave them another out. If unable to be the best or unwilling to work for it, they could find satisfaction in being better than black Americans. Societal structures were even designed help. When it was clear that Lee might not win the game, he had an intensified need to just be better than Kenny.
The structures do not stand alone. Individual people do their part to reinforce the hierarchy. Domestic terrorists murder people and burn things. And then there are lesser forms of antagonism that include street harassment and internet trolling. Perpetrators act innocent: “Why do you think my confederate flag is racist?” or “Why isn’t it ‘all lives matter’?”.
Lee constantly antagonized Kenny. He also pretended to be confused about the reaction he was getting.
This was a sad and dark way for Lee to spend his time. The need to do this can’t feel good. He lost the game. And he gained nothing except negative backlash from the audience.
Kenny wanted to win the game. Oops, I mean find true love and live happily ever after. When thrown into a situation with men of varying backgrounds, he tried to be cool with all them. He soon realized Lee wasn’t his friend. After a while, Kenny just wanted the country crooner to leave him alone. But Lee refused to stop his harassment campaign.
This is a familiar pattern. Many black people long ago accepted that a segment of white America hates them. Like Kenny, their attitude is “Fine we don’t have to be friends. Just leave us alone.” Folks just want to work, raise their families, and enjoy life in peace. But the harassment persists. These days it even comes from the president of the United States and his followers.
Ignoring Lee was an option. There was just one problem. Lee’s game play involved labeling Kenny as aggressive, dangerous, and untrustworthy. If anyone believed these lies, Kenny would lose the game.
In the world beyond the cameras, black men are similarly labeled. And losing the game equates to outcomes more serious than not getting a one-on-one date. A police officer or “fearful” citizen could shoot them. They could lose a job or entrepreneurship opportunities.
Faced with losing the game, Kenny felt the need to address Lee’s lies. Black Americans often feel compelled to address racism, even when it means less time for other aspects of life. Sometimes this burden is heavy. This, in Trump’s America, many black people began celebrating the idea of “reclaiming their time”.
A Concerned Viewer
Just one question: How long are we going to play this game? It got old about a century ago.
(Originally Posted on Extra Newsfeed on August 3, 2017)