Rayna Lindsey’s brief tenure on Bravo’s “Below Deck” featured all the ingredients of a contemporary political drama embedded in what used to be politically free reality TV. Early in the show’s latest season, Chief Stewardess Heather Chase utters a forbidden word that starts with “n” during a crew night out with Rayna Lindsey, a black deckhand.
The circumstances of the social misdemeanor were far from vindictive. The word was spoken not out of racist contempt but out of friendly banter as the pair walked out of a bathroom together slightly intoxicated.
“We’re here, this n-gg-r,” Lindsey proclaimed.
“This n-gg-r,” Chase repeated behind Lindsey, who at first ignored the incident only to admonish Chase in front of their drunk colleagues hours later once back on the boat, warning her of cancel culture.
“You cannot say n-gg-r,” Lindsey said seemingly out of nowhere as Chase engaged in totally unrelated banter with another deckhand.
“You’re white as hell,” Lindsey reminded Chase. “That’s cancel culture. You better be real careful when you say the n-word. They’ll cancel you for that.”
Later episodes would reveal Lindsey wasn’t offering advice, she was offering a roadmap.
“I didn’t think I said it, I’m sorry,” Chase said, as if she had immediately sobered up.
“I like you, but you’ve got to be careful because you know how people are. It’s 2021, not 2002 anymore,” Lindsey said. “It’s OK, I still love you. I’m just telling you, like, be careful.”
Chase apologized again, Lindsey offered reassurance once more, and Chase went to bed.
In a sane world, that would be all to the story of a brief dust-up common between crewmates. Lindsey was right, however, in warning Chase that things have changed since 2002. Cancel culture is real, and it’s unforgiving just like Lindsey.
After clearing Chase of her misdeed, Lindsey went around to crew members complaining of the apparent trauma caused by the brief episode on their crew night out, including to her superior.
“She thought it was cool, and it hurts me. It hurts my heart,” Lindsey said, after failing to corral what in her eyes was adequate support from the crew who patiently listened and offered encouragement.
When word got to Chase that Lindsey was still upset, the chief stewardess promptly pulled Lindsey aside to issue an earnest apology.
“It wasn’t right and from the bottom of my heart I’m so sorry. I should’ve never said it,” Chase said. “I just wanted you to know that I’m not that person at all, and I really just want to apologize for that whole situation.”
Lindsey again accepted, claiming tension on board between the two was a consequence of Chase’s supposed distance as opposed to Lindsey’s own passive-aggressiveness used to cope with the trauma from several nights prior.
By the end of the season however, it became clear hard feelings remained as Lindsey maintained a posture of passive-aggressiveness towards Chase.
“I’ve apologized. Rayna’s told me everything’s good, we’re all clear. So what am I to do but take her for her word?” Chase asks herself on the show perplexed after receiving the silent treatment from Lindsey. “It’s like, what am I supposed to do here?”
On the crew’s final night out, the situation erupted to give Chase her answer: there was nothing she could do, and Lindsey had already said that much to their colleagues.
“I’ll never be friends with a white person who says n-gg-r,” Lindsey says on the sidelines after bringing the episode up at dinner.
As the crew heads back to the dock, Lindsey says it to Chase directly.
“Listen, I don’t like white people who say n-gg-r and that’s why I don’t respect you,” Lindsey said.
The exchange led Chase to get on her knees, on camera and in front of the crew. It was of no use. Not under the rules of the cancel culture Lindsey was eager to weaponize.
“I was drunk and that’s not an excuse and I am on my knees asking for forgiveness,” Chase says under Lindsey towering over the apparent oppressor.
“Well stay on them because there’s no forgiveness here,” Lindsey said, going on to accuse another black crewmate of being “white” for the suggestion that Lindsey offer grace.
The issue did not go entirely resolved in the reunion that aired last night, even as Chase continued to approach what became a saga with the kind of humility Lindsey refused.
On Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live,” with Andy Cohen, Lindsey remained upset, framing herself the victim no matter her response while she lashed out at colleagues.
“I don’t think people understand that position of being like the only African-American woman and having to deal with something that like, is so uncomfortable,” Lindsey said. “If I would’ve like, snapped off, then what would I have been called? ‘Ghetto?’ … Then when I try to shake things off it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m fake.'”
Would she really though, had she chosen the latter? No, the world would’ve moved on far sooner. Lindsey’s victimization however, was internalized.
There is no doubt Lindsey was deeply hurt by Chase’s conduct. That much was visibly clear on screen as Lindsey continued to seek solace in colleagues over the incident. Lindsey, however, is far more a victim of the culture she’s emboldened by her actions, one that deems her the ultimate victim, than the one she claims to righteously stand against.
For Lindsey, there was never coming back from the fatal sin of reciting the forbidden phrase. Such conduct today doesn’t just warrant an apology, not even a groveling. The crime demands a full-blown cancellation, no matter the circumstances, not even in banter that was far from hostile. Apologies offer no immunity. See Joe Rogan.
That Lindsey remained so emotional to the point of tears on Season 9’s reunion is far more a testament to the culture’s true destruction than the idea of rampant anti-black racism still infecting every white mind in the 21st century. Lindsey’s internalized victimization taught her minor aggressions, regardless of nuance, are irredeemable exercises that warrant days, weeks, months of enduring pain. That’s why she couldn’t merely accept an apology up front, one-on-one, or on the knees for a one-off incident of the n-word.