WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS ON THE END OF MATT JAMES ‘SEASON OF “THE BACHELOR”.
In a powerful statement posted to his Instagram account Monday night, bachelor Matt James unequivocally stated that “the Bachelor franchise has failed” when it comes to its handling of the race. After host Chris Harrison defended a contestant who had a troubling history of racist behavior on “Extra,” James said the current franchise accounting moment “has also prompted me to re-evaluate and deal with what my experience on The Bachelor represents. “
James and contestant Rachael Kirkconnell reunited at the end of the season, with the 24-year-old graphic designer receiving the final rose in the still-on-air finale, as Reality Steve reported on January 21. HuffPost has since learned that James and Kirkconnell are no longer together, and their breakup was ultimately precipitated by recent revelations that she attended a formal pre-war-themed fraternity in 2018 and loved the photos. containing images of the Confederate flag in the past.
James’ statement marks the loudest statement he has expressed publicly about the franchise’s relationship to the race since being elected as first Black Bachelor in June in the wake of national protests against police brutality and racism. (“It’s an honor,” James said “Good Morning America” at the time. “I’m just going to lean into myself and the way my mom raised me, and I hope when people invite me over to their place on Monday night, they will see that I am not much different from them. and that they will see this diverse love. the stories are beautiful. “)
It’s also a very unusual step for a franchise to publicly criticize the show before its season ends.
But as a result of host Chris Harrison ‘withdraws’ from franchise temporarily after making a A 15-minute rant about the “police awake” at the Black Bachelorette premiere, Rachel Lindsay, on “Extra,” the stakes got higher. As James wrote in his statement, he felt compelled to “deal with the disturbing information that has come to light since filming was completed.”
“As the season wore on it became clear that Matt’s presence on the show was exemplary of what so many POCs face on a daily basis. He and black women had to take on the added responsibility of helping ‘The Bachelor’ tackle diversity issues and were often exploited, ”a source close to James told HuffPost. “The executives of ‘The Bachelor’ failed to realize that selecting a diverse group of applicants is not the same as creating a level playing field and opportunity. If they want to change, it means changing behind and in front of the camera. “
James has drawn the ire of some fans for not talking more about the franchise’s racism, especially in light of his obvious connection to Kirkconnell on the show. But he was also placed in a painful position as his journey as the first Black Bachelor was overshadowed by the controversy over the racist actions of the woman he chose as winner and the longtime host of the program.
James can neither bear the burden of the franchise’s evils nor the weight of saving it. “The Bachelor” had a strained relationship with race – and Blackness in particular – long before James’ season, and a more diverse cast does not respond to the racism embedded in the structures of the show business and the entertainment industry in its. together.
James isn’t even the first black lead to be put in the position of dating a white candidate with a history of racist views and behavior on social media. In 2017, Lindsay’s suitors included Lee Garrett, whose tweets comparing the NAACP to the KKK and calling Black Lives Matter a “terrorist group” (among many other racist, Islamophobic, homophobic and misogynistic posts) resurfaced throughout the season. Lindsay has publicly stated that she felt like she was framed as the “angry black woman” on her season. This month, she said that once her contractual obligations to “The Bachelor” were fulfilled, she would be done with the franchise.
The executives of “The Bachelor” failed to realize that selecting a diverse group of applicants is not the same as creating a level playing field and opportunity. If they want to change, it means changing behind and in front of the camera.
A source close to Matt James
Other competitors of color have reported similar experiences of tokenization, exploitation and racist backlash that some say the show has failed to prepare or support. Kupah James, a contestant on Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season of “The Bachelorette,” and Taylor Nolan, a contestant on Nick Viall’s season of “The Bachelor” who is now a big advocate of racial equity within the franchise. , told HuffPost over the summer, they felt they had been presented as “aggressive” villains, and therefore ready to receive a massive reaction. LaNease Adams, a black woman in the very first season of “The Bachelor,” remembers finding her photo on a white supremacist website and experiencing mental health issues afterward. And Jason Mesnick, the first and only Jewish bachelor, told HuffPost last year that the show downplayed his Jewishness, including discouraging him from breaking a drink during his TV wedding in 2010 to his now wife Molly
In 2012, two black men filed a racial discrimination class action lawsuit against the franchise, which was ultimately dismissed on First Amendment grounds. However, after the trial, starting with Sean Lowe’s season of “The Bachelor,” the casts diversified considerably. But contestants of color still rarely make the show’s coveted four finalists, and even when they do, they often don’t receive the same screen time and positive attention as their white peers.
Pieper James, one of the black women in James’ season, tweeted on February 11 that “Black women in this franchise should always be extremely aware of our “grace” because no one is extending it to us. She added later that she was “while waiting to hear the systematic changes that the franchise will evoke to fight against the tokenization of individuals BIPOC. “
Until the past two weeks, no one on “The Bachelor” management team has faced minimal consequences for this racist story. (Even though Harrison would step down to undertake an anti-racist journey, he has continued to earn money on Cameo and continued to appear on previously filmed episodes of this season.)
James, it seems, is just hoping his season can precipitate the kind of institutional change that color contenders and viewers have been asking for years. As he wrote on Instagram: “My biggest prayer is that this is an inflection point that results in real and institutional change for the better.”
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up to become a founding member and help shape the next chapter of HuffPost