All hail Bachelor Nation’s new woke bae, Anthony Battle! Though the 26-year-old education software manager didn’t get much airtime on “The Bachelorette” before his week five exit, he made a splash Monday night with a “Men Tell All” smackdown for the ages ― and a succinct explainer on implicit racism that should be mandatory viewing.
After far too many weeks of Rachel Lindsay’s season of “The Bachelorette” were wasted on contestant Lee Garrett’s race-baiting, deception and pot-stirring, the “Men Tell All” episode unfortunately forced us all to relive his unpleasant arc on the show. In happier news, however, the black men of “The Bachelorette” stepped up in a big way. Contestants including DeMario Jackson, Will Gaskins, and Josiah Graham doggedly and eloquently confronted Garrett about his history of racist tweets and his malicious behavior toward black contestants like Kenny King.
And none spoke more powerfully than Battle, a former Fulbright scholar and Northwestern football player.
By the time Garrett sat in the hot seat, several contestants ― most notably King, who criticized him for acting dismissive and disingenuous ― had strongly insinuated their lack of respect for him. Host Chris Harrison amped up the heat, displaying several of the offensive tweets that had gotten Garrett in hot water earlier in the season, including one favorably comparing the KKK to the NAACP and asking him to account for them. Asked to account for the tweets, he blamed lack of context and vaguely claimed that he had been “inconsiderate” and had a lot to learn. Though he put up a placating front and continued to apologize for hurting feelings, he carefully avoided admitting to any racism. “I don’t like racism at all,” he opined at one point. “It bothers me inside.”
After Harrison, King, and Graham questioned him about the bigoted undertones of his tweets and behavior, Battle grew impatient with Garrett’s evasions and decided to address the problem head-on ― and in detail. In short, he gave a mini-tutorial on how implicit bias, instilled by a white hegemony, can lead even those who don’t identify as racist to speak and act in racist ways.
“You haven’t acknowledged exactly what we’re trying to forgive you for,” he pointed out. “You’re not acknowledging the kind of invisible racism in your mind. You may not be doing it intentionally, but I think it’s still motivating your actions. The racism that is ingrained in your behavior to the point of invisibility is pushing you to act… in a way that you don’t even recognize.”
Given that background, Battle asked Garrett, “Where are you now, are you acknowledging that, even if you didn’t intend it, are your actions motivated by racist thoughts that are implicitly embedded in your mentality?” Unfortunately, it’s not clear he got the message. “Anthony, you’ve always been well-spoken,” he replied. Groan.
Even after this thoughtful explainer, it took a lot more handholding from Harrison and prodding from Gaskins before Garrett would concede that even that one individual tweet was racist. Finally, he got to hug it out with King as a sign of good will (which it’s not at all clear he deserved). Whew ― calling out racism without making the perpetrators feel too bad is hard work! And lest we forget, it’s work that the black stars of the season, including Lindsay herself and black suitors like Battle, should never have had to do, and would not have had to do had ABC not cast Garrett.
Bachelor Nation, and ABC, let’s consider ourselves blessed to have Battle’s intimidating vocabulary and wokeness on hand to deliver the hard truths.