“Why are you so loud?”
“You need to calm down.”
“Why are you upset?”
These are all comments I have had said to me from non-Black people when I wasn’t yelling, I felt pretty calm, and I wasn’t upset. When I was young, these questions came as a surprise. I didn’t understand how my own perception of myself could be so different from a person in the same space as me. It was alarming to think that I was unintentionally making people uncomfortable with my communication style. As I got older, that surprise turned to anger when I realized that it wasn’t my behavior, but their own assumptions about my Blackness, that were influencing their reactions to me. If you’ve been watching this season of The Bachelorette, you know that this bias is being heavily implied with Lee.
Lee has spent the past two episodes stirring up trouble with two Black castmates. Two weeks ago, he was questioning Eric’s intentions and potential with Rachel. When Eric got upset, he mocked his emotions and suggested that he was too immature for their prized Bachelorette. For what it’s worth, I do think Eric is emotionally immature, but Lee didn’t have to be condescending about it. In fact, he could have chosen to mind his own fucking business.
This week, Lee has his eyes set on Kenny, the pro-wrestler and dad of the year. The two of them had maintained an amicable relationship until this week, when Lee interrupted Kenny’s solo time with Rachel to get more for himself. When Kenny called him out on it, Lee gaslit and provoked him to anger. Then, because he is particularly scummy, he insisted to Rachel that Kenny was unnecessarily "aggressive" towards him.
Not only is Lee relying on racist stereotypes about angry Black men to misinterpret their rightful feelings of frustration, but he is using them to position himself as a moral superior. Lee’s Twitter feed suggests that he is most likely the least woke contestant on the season as it pertains to race. He used quotations around the word privilege and supported the presidential candidate that wants to deport immigrants and ban Muslims. These beliefs appear to be influencing his interactions with the men of color on the show and it’s infuriating to watch.
Today, asking me why I’m upset when I’m not is the fastest way to actually make me upset. It’s a trigger that I’ve developed after years of unnecessarily, and often unsuccessfully, defending myself against accusations of being combative, threatening, and disruptive. The feeling of discontentedness often transforms into silent fury with the knowledge that, even today, my protests will fall on deaf ears, or worse, put me in danger of arrest or harm.
Watching Kenny struggle against this last night was perhaps the realest moment The Bachelorette has ever seen. But hey, at least Rachel has peeped what’s going on.