As Bachelor Nation is well aware by now, Bachelorette star Hannah Brown is facing major backlash after she dropped the n-word while singing DaBaby’s song, “Rockstar,” on her Instagram Live.
Obviously, this transgression is, as Bachelor star Mike Johnson put it, “unacceptable.”
However, Brown’s problematic behavior didn’t stop there. When fans called her out for saying the racial slur, Brown waffled between offering a half-baked apology and denying that she ever said the word at all.
In the video, she initially says, “I did? I’m so sorry… I don’t think… Maybe it was Patrick. Um, anyway,” and laughs before switching gears away from the subject.
When fans continued to call her out in the comments, Brown grew defensive, saying, “you know what, I’m going to stay here, and y’all can think I said whatever I did or think I’m something I’m not, but I’m not that.”
Brown later posted an apology on her (already expired) Instagram story, writing,
“I owe you all a major apology. There is no excuse and I will not justify what I said. I have read your messages and seen all the hurt I have caused. I own it all. I am terribly sorry and know that whether in public or private, this language is unacceptable. I promise to do better.”
Former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, for one, found the apology to be too little, too late. She said,
“It’s easy to make a statement. It’s easy to hide behind words. But when you’re bold enough to say the n-word on camera, on your platform, then you need to be bold enough to use your face on camera and apologize in the same way that you said the word.”
Nick Viall shared similar views, saying,
“We don’t know whether that came from her heart or from her publicist.”
Brown’s behavior has sparked a discussion on celebrity cancel culture — what warrants it, whether it’s justifiable, and who deserves to be #canceled versus who should get a chance at redemption.
Certainly, laughing your way through an apology for a racial epithet that, as Lindsay put it, “has so much weight and history behind it,” is bad enough. Writing a few sentences on Instagram and hoping the backlash goes away is just as shortsighted.
But there’s another underlying thread here: if you’re comfortable enough to let the word slip when you’re broadcasting a video to an international audience, what does that say about the times when you’re with a small group of friends, or family, or people you trust? If this is what you say in front of millions of followers, what are you saying behind closed doors?
Hannah Brown is far from the first Bachelor star to exhibit racist or racially insensitive behavior, and she, sadly, likely won’t be the last. Garrett Yrigoyen “liked” tweets that mocked undocumented immigrants. Victoria Fuller modeled in a “White Lives Matter” campaign. And Lee Garrett’s racist behavior was so overt that it was even addressed in a storyline on the show. There were plenty of thirsty Bachelor influencers exhibiting problematic behavior before Brown entered the scene, and there will certainly be more to come (especially considering ABC’s notoriously terrible at vetting their cast members).
By canceling Hannah Brown, we are, in some ways, letting her off easy. She can fade into oblivion, no explanation required, her void soon filled by a new Bachelorette who may one day turn out to be equally problematic. She’s off our screens and out of our social media queue and the millions of followers who “stan” her, many impressionable teens, never really learn why her behavior was so unjustifiable and why she should remedy it.
But, too, by chalking Brown’s actions up to an honest mistake and not pushing Brown on her behavior, we are also letting her off the hook, allowing her to benefit from the ever-shortening attention span of the news cycle. She shouldn’t get to simply lie low for a while and hope that her story washes away with the next celebrity scandal.
Instead, if she hopes to move forward, Brown should offer up a truly heartfelt apology with tangible ways she will educate herself rather than merely an ambiguous “promise to do better.” She owes it to the black members of Bachelor nation, who have already been minimized in so many ways by the franchise. She owes it to her millions of followers. And she owes it to herself.
Mike Johnson, for one, hopes that Brown’s missteps will create an opportunity for improvement. He said,
“Issues like this bring light to the bridge of pop culture and racism within our country. I’m inviting her and everyone to a conversation, in hopes to educate everyone that this type of behavior needs to be changed and is unacceptable. My aim is that, in this moment we don’t divide, we come together, learn from this and create change for the better.”
Nick Viall shared similar sentiments. He said,
“This is a learning opportunity, hopefully, for Hannah… So far, her response hasn’t been great, but I personally am willing to see how she handles this.”
“Like it or not, Hannah Brown is going to continue to be a role model. The question is, is she going to be a good one?”
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Michelle Vincent is a project manager and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling, is worried she won’t love her future children as much as she loves her dogs, and is actively recruiting podcast recommendations.