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Matt James, first black ‘Bachelor’, says racist controversy surrounding show is ‘devastating’

Matt James, the first black man to lead ABC’s “The Bachelor” franchise, spoke on Monday about the series’ failures of diversity and widespread criticism of host Chris Harrison in recent weeks.

James, who directs the show’s 25th season, said a recent incident surrounding the photos of a candidate in a plantation-themed fraternity before the formal war in 2018 and Harrison’s defense of her is a “ clear reflection of a much bigger issue than this bachelorette franchise. has been failing to tackle properly for years. “

In a statement posted to social media, James, 29, said that while there are still a few episodes to air for this season, it is important for him to rectify the situation.

“The reality is I’m still learning about these situations in real time and it’s been devastating and heartbreaking, to put it bluntly,” James said.

The current star of the franchise has said he hopes the “inflection point” will bring about real institutional change for the ABC series.

“This moment sparked critical conversations and reporting, raised important questions and sparked inspiring displays of solidarity from the Bachelor Nation,” James said. “It also prompted me to re-evaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor means, not only to me, but to all contestants of color, especially black contestants from this season, and seasons past, and for you, home viewers. “

Photos of candidate Rachael Kirkconnell have resurfaced in recent weeks of her at the plantation-themed party in 2018, along with claims that she liked photos containing Confederate flags on social media.

Kirkconnell, originally from Georgia, has since apologized and told “Bachelor” fans that she was ashamed of her lack of education and understanding about race issues.

“At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them,” she said. “My age or when it happened is no excuse. They are in no way acceptable or acceptable. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.

Harrison, who has hosted the show since its inception in 2002, defended Kirkconnell in an interview on “Extra” with former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay, who was the franchise’s first and only black woman to helm. program. Harrison argued that Kirkconnell’s criticism could be unfair, even though Lindsay told him the photos from the party were “not very nice.”

“Well, is Rachel looking good in 2018? Or isn’t that a good look in 2021? Harrison argued. “Because there is a big difference.”

Many fans were outraged by Harrison’s response, apparently excusing racism with ‘cancellation culture’ criticism despite Lindsay’s attempts to explain that pre-war themed parties were inexcusable in 2018 .

Harrison has since issued two apologies and said he would step down from the show’s reunion, “After the final rose.”

In his first acknowledgment of the criticism, Harrison apologized to the fans and also Lindsay, for not listening to what she was telling him. He told fans he “would always own a mistake.”

“What I realize now is causing harm by speaking wrongly in a way that perpetuates racism, and for that I am deeply sorry,” Harrison said first.

The host issued a second statement three days later as criticism continued and questions arose as to whether he was the best person to host the show. Harrison has announced that he will not be involved in the filming of the reunion special.

“The historic season of The Bachelor must not be marred or overshadowed by my mistakes or diminished by my actions. To this end, I consulted Warner Bros. and ABC and I will be retiring for a while and not appearing on the After the Final Rose special, ”Harrison said. “I am determined to be educated on a deeper and more productive level than ever before.

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