The Bachelor star Matt James has spoken out on the recent controversies surrounding the latest season of ABC’s hit show.
His offending comments had been linked to another contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, who herself was accused of “liking” social media posts that were deemed racially insensitive.
She was also photographed at a plantation-themed party while attending Georgia College & State University in 2018.
Harrison told Lindsay, who made history as the TV franchise’s first black “Bachelorette”, that critics should offer Kirkconnell “a little understanding” and said he was “not the woke police”.
In a statement posted to Instagram, James said the past few weeks had been “some of the most challenging of my life”.
“While there are several episodes left of the season, it is important that I take the time to address the troubling information that has come to light since we wrapped filming, including the incredibly disappointing photos of Rachael Kirkconnell and the interview between Rachel Lindsay and Chris Harrison,” the 29-year-old wrote.
“The reality is that I’m learning about these situations in real-time, and it has been devastating and heartbreaking, to put it bluntly.”
James, who is the franchise’s first black Bachelor, said he found Harrison’s “failure to… understand the emotional labour that my friend [Lindsay] was taking on… troubling and painful to watch”.
He said the controversy reflected “a much larger issue that The Bachelor franchise has fallen short on addressing adequately for years”.
“This moment has sparked critical conversations and reporting, raised important questions and resulted in inspiring displays of solidarity from The Bachelor nation,” he wrote.
“It has also pushed me to reevaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor represents, not just for me, but for all of the contestants of colour, especially the Black contestants of this season and seasons past, and for you, the viewers at home.”
James concluded his post by noting that he hoped this was a moment that would result in “real and institutional change for the better”.
Kirkconnell issued an apology last week, saying she “was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist”.
“I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it’s no one’s responsibility to educate me,” she said in an Instagram post.
“Racial progress and unity are impossible without (white) accountability, and I deserve to be held accountable for my actions.”