Patnacia Goodman is an acquisitions editor at Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Reality television’s iconic host of The Bachelor, Chris Harrison, won’t be hosting the “After the Final Rose” episode on Monday night, or the next season of The Bachelorette. The 20-year veteran of the show announced he would step away for an unspecified period of time after a conversation between Harrison and former bachelorette and TV personality Rachel Lindsay on her entertainment show. During the 13-minute interview, Harrison addressed a controversy around Rachael Kirkconnell, one of bachelor Matt James’s final picks.
While the show was airing, Reddit users found social media posts by Kirkconnell that included racially insensitive Native American costumes and alleged support for conspiracy theories. But the controversy came to a head when photos surfaced of Kirkconnell at an “Old South” themed fraternity party in 2018.
When Lindsay, the first black lead of a Bachelor franchise show, asked Harrison in the interview about Kirkconnell’s social media posts, he railed against “cancel culture” and “the woke police.” “We all need to have a little grace, a little compassion, a little understanding because I’ve seen some stuff online,” he said. “Again, this judge-jury-executioner thing where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart … it’s unbelievably alarming to watch.”
Lindsay pushed back that a picture at the 2018 antebellum party was “not a good look,” to which Harrison quipped: “Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018? Or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference.” Lindsay responded: “It’s not a good look ever.”
Instead of hearing the criticisms leveled against Kirkconnell as a call for accountability for her harmful actions, Harrison leaned into a familiar refrain of those who get caught up in “call out culture”: Do not focus on the past. Give us grace, compassion, and understanding.
Of course, there are many insidious forms of cancel culture driven by self-righteousness or hatred rather than by wise judgment and correction. But at its very best, what if being “canceled” is a form of grace? What if the most compassionate thing a person in the wrong could receive is correction? What if they have to show humble understanding after receiving criticism and correction? Public confrontation is not a new phenomenon, and there is grace for those who face it.
Godly repentance and holy correction is a means of grace—whether we like the means or not. While many view cancel culture as solely de-platforming a leader or public shaming, the best of cancel culture happens in a context where people hold the well-being of others in mind and call for accountability in a spirit of loving correction.
When a celebrity or social media personality is rightly confronted for harmful actions, the means of the confrontation should not be dehumanization, violence, or abuse. Harassment and spiteful responses are not the same kind of “cancellation” as corrective grace. Done well, the goal of public rebuke should be that the person would step back, learn from the hurt they caused, and change for the better.