Bachelor Matt James Publicly Criticizes The Franchise’s Race Problem


In a robust assertion posted on his Instagram account on Monday night, Bachelor Matt James acknowledged unequivocally that “The Bachelor franchise has fallen quick” in terms of its dealing with of race. After host Chris Harrison defended a contestant who had a troubling historical past of racist conduct on “Additional,” James stated the present second of reckoning for the franchise “has additionally pushed me to reevaluate and course of what my expertise on The Bachelor represents.”

James and contestant Rachael Kirkconnell ended up collectively on the finish of the season, with the 24-year-old graphic designer receiving the ultimate rose within the yet-to-air finale, as Actuality Steve reported on Jan. 21. HuffPost has since realized that James and Kirkconnell are not collectively, and that their breakup was finally precipitated by latest revelations that she had attended an antebellum-themed fraternity formal in 2018 and preferred photographs containing Accomplice flag imagery up to now.

James’ assertion marks essentially the most vocal he has been publicly in regards to the franchise’s relationship with race since being solid because the first Black Bachelor in June on the heels of nationwide protests in opposition to police brutality and racism. (“It’s an honor,” James informed “Good Morning America” on the time. “I’m simply going to lean into myself and the way my mother raised me, and hopefully when individuals invite me into their properties on Monday evening they’re going to see that I’m not a lot totally different from them they usually see that numerous love tales are lovely.”) 

It’s additionally a extremely uncommon step for a franchise result in publicly criticize the present earlier than their season has completed airing. 

However within the wake of host Chris Harrison “stepping apart” briefly from the franchise after happening a 15-minute rant in regards to the “woke police” to the primary Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, on “Additional,” the stakes turned larger. As James wrote in his assertion, he felt compelled to “deal with the troubling info that has come to gentle since we wrapped filming.”

“Because the season has progressed, it’s grow to be clear that Matt’s presence on the present was exemplary of what so many POC face day by day. He and the Black ladies needed to tackle the additional accountability of serving to ‘The Bachelor’ deal with problems with range and have been typically exploited,” a supply near James informed HuffPost. “‘The Bachelor’ executives have failed to appreciate that casting a various set of contestants will not be the identical factor as creating equitable situations and alternatives. In the event that they wish to change, which means change behind, and in entrance of the digital camera.”

James has drawn the ire of some followers for not being extra vocal in regards to the franchise’s racism, particularly in gentle of his apparent reference to Kirkconnell on the present. However he’s additionally been positioned in a painful place as a result of his journey as the primary Black Bachelor has been overshadowed by controversy over the racist actions of each the lady he selected because the winner and the present’s longtime host.

James can neither bear the burden of the franchise’s ills nor the burden of saving it. “The Bachelor” has had a fraught relationship with race — and notably Blackness — far earlier than James’ season, and extra numerous casting doesn’t deal with the racism constructed into the buildings of the present and the leisure business as an entire. 

James isn’t even the primary Black result in be put within the place of relationship a white contestant with a historical past of racist opinions and conduct on social media. In 2017, Lindsay’s suitors included Lee Garrett, whose tweets evaluating the NAACP to the KKK and calling Black Lives Matter a “terrorist group” (amongst many different racist, Islamophobic, homophobic and misogynistic posts) surfaced because the season aired. Lindsay has publicly acknowledged that she felt like she was framed because the “offended Black girl” on her season. This month she stated that after her contractual obligations to “The Bachelor” are fulfilled, she will likely be accomplished with the franchise. 

‘The Bachelor’ executives have failed to appreciate that casting a various set of contestants will not be the identical factor as creating equitable situations and alternatives. In the event that they wish to change, which means change behind, and in entrance of the digital camera.
A supply near Matt James

Different contestants of shade have reported related experiences of tokenization, exploitation and racist backlash that some say the present failed to arrange them for or help them via. Each 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’s now a significant advocate for racial fairness inside the franchise, informed HuffPost over the summer season that they felt that that they had been framed as “aggressive” villains, and thus set as much as obtain large backlash. LaNease Adams, a Black girl solid on the very first season of “The Bachelor,” recalled discovering her {photograph} on a white supremacist web site and experiencing psychological well being struggles afterwards. And Jason Mesnick, the primary and solely Jewish Bachelor, informed HuffPost final 12 months that the present had downplayed his Jewishness, together with discouraging him from breaking a glass at his 2010 televised marriage ceremony to his now-wife Molly

In 2012, two Black males led a class-action racial discrimination lawsuit in opposition to the franchise, which was finally dismissed on First Modification grounds. Nonetheless, after the lawsuit, starting with Sean Lowe’s season of “The Bachelor,” the casts turned notably extra numerous. However contestants of shade nonetheless hardly ever make the present’s coveted closing 4, and even once they do,  they’re typically not given the identical quantity of display time and constructive consideration as their white friends. 

Pieper James, one of many Black ladies on James’ season, tweeted on Feb. 11 thatBlack ladies on this franchise should at all times be hyper conscious of our ‘grace’ as a result of nobody is extending it to us.” She later added that she was “ready to listen to the systematic modifications the franchise will likely be evoking to fight the tokenization of BIPOC people.”

Till the final two weeks, nobody from the chief group of “The Bachelor” has confronted even a modicum of penalties for this racist historical past. (Even whereas Harrison is allegedly stepping away to go on an anti-racist journey, he has continued to generate income on Cameo and has continued to seem on the already-filmed episodes of this season.)

James, it appears, simply hopes his season can precipitate the form of institutional change that contestants of shade and viewers have been asking for for years. As he wrote on Instagram: “My biggest prayer is that that is an inflection level that ends in actual and institutional change for the higher.”

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