The 25th season of “The Bachelor” concluded on Monday night with the revelation that Rachael Kirkconnell had been chosen as the winner of the season by star Matt James before the two broke up after claims of racism were made against Kirkconnell once the show finished filming.
Although the programming of the season ended on Monday night without an engagement, James and Kirkconnell agreed to continue their relationship. However, during the “After the Final Rose” special, James confirmed that he ended his relationship with Kirkconnell after photos surfaced of her attending an “Old South” plantation-themed party in 2018 and accusations of racism were brought up against her.
During the special, Kirkconnell was asked about the photo and what she sees now when she looks at it. According to Entertainment Tonight, Kirkconnell responded, “I see someone who was living in this ignorance without even thinking about who it would be hurting. I never once asked myself at any point, like, ‘What’s the tradition behind this? What does this represent? Why do we wear those dresses?'”
She said, “I’m not gonna sit here and say that I didn’t know any better, because I could’ve easily asked myself those questions. No, I never took the time to make that connection, ’cause if I would have taken the time, I easily could’ve understood what was wrong with it.”
James explained his decision to end things with Kirkconnell, saying, “You wanna believe that you know your person better than anybody else knows your person, and while all this controversy’s swirling around, who Rachael is, things that she might have attended, and pictures that she liked and people that she’s associated with.”
He continued, “Before Rachael addressed anything or Chris Harrison spoke on anything, I’m trying to be there for her, and I dismissed them as rumors, because that’s what they were to me. You hear things that are heartbreaking, and you just pray they’re not true. And then, when you find out that they are it just makes you question everything.”
James went on to say, “When she spoke out and publicly acknowledged that she would do better and she apologized is when I was finally able to take check on myself and see where I was at, and I wasn’t OK…It was in that moment and the conversation that I had that [I realized that] Rachael might not understand what it means to be Black in America.”
He then confirmed that the two had broken up, adding, “As Rachael acknowledged in her apology, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done…I have to take a step back and allow her to put in that work, and I’m looking forward to seeing her put in that work.”
“If you don’t understand that something like that is problematic in 2018, there’s a lot of me that you won’t understand. It’s as simple as that,” he continued. “You know what was a long time ago? Plantations… I would ask those same people who are so triggered, to bring that same energy to supporting folks of color who are asking for change.”
“You can still really care about somebody and want them to do better,” he stated. “I don’t think that anybody’s irredeemable. There’s a lot of processing that I have to do, and it’s just not a situation that I think that I would help. [That’s] why I stepped back and let her do the work that she’s committed to doing.”
On Tuesday, Kirkconnell posted a heartfelt message on Instagram with a series of photos from her experience on the show. She explained her feelings for James, stating that “i knew from the first night i met matt that he was something special, and i was praying to share something exceptional between the two of us if that’s what was meant to be. while i never expected this outcome, i respect his decision completely. of course i wish circumstances were different, but i still feel blessed for the time we did have together and the memories we made.”
Kirkconnell continued, stating that she believes “he was the love of my life” and that James will “always hold a piece of my heart,” adding “i’ll always be hopeful and believe what’s meant to be will be.”
Kirkconnell went on to say that she was disappointed by how the issues surrounding her actions took the place of other important stories that could have been told on the show. She wrote, “this was supposed to be a monumental season, and one of the biggest disappointments has been the overshadowing of these beautiful women and their stories. they are some of the strongest, most brilliant, most extraordinary women and i was lucky enough to have met them. you all deserve more, but i promise to always stand by and support each of you in any way i can.”
Kirkconnell’s remained optimistic in her statement, writing, “while i certainly wish things turned out differently, i also believe there is a reason for everything. we may not be able to control situations thrown our way, but we can control how we deal with it, and i believe good can come out every circumstance.”
She concluded by saying that she hopes “tonight sparks conversations and a level of understanding. i hope it opens your mind to unlearning bias, to educating yourself, and gives you the push to initiate change. there are so many actions you can take, but i believe it starts within the small corners of your life, and having these conversations with those around you.”
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