Bachelor Matt James Publicly Criticizes The Franchise’s Race Problem

Written by on February 22, 2021


In a strong assertion posted on his Instagram account on Monday night, Bachelor Matt James acknowledged unequivocally that “The Bachelor franchise has fallen brief” in terms of its dealing with of race. After host Chris Harrison defended a contestant who had a troubling historical past of racist habits on “Further,” James mentioned 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 discovered that James and Kirkconnell are now not collectively, and that their breakup was in the end precipitated by latest revelations that she had attended an antebellum-themed fraternity formal in 2018 and favored photographs containing Accomplice flag imagery up to now.

James’ assertion marks probably the most vocal he has been publicly in regards to the franchise’s relationship with race since being forged 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 advised “Good Morning America” on the time. “I’m simply going to lean into myself and the way my mother raised me, and hopefully when folks invite me into their houses on Monday evening they’re going to see that I’m not a lot totally different from them and so they see that numerous love tales are stunning.”) 

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” quickly from the franchise after occurring a 15-minute rant in regards to the “woke police” to the primary Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, on “Further,” the stakes grew to become larger. As James wrote in his assertion, he felt compelled to “tackle the troubling info that has come to mild since we wrapped filming.”

“Because the season has progressed, it’s turn out to be clear that Matt’s presence on the present was exemplary of what so many POC face every day. He and the Black ladies needed to tackle the additional accountability of serving to ‘The Bachelor’ tackle problems with variety and have been typically exploited,” a supply near James advised HuffPost. “‘The Bachelor’ executives have failed to appreciate that casting a various set of contestants just isn’t the identical factor as creating equitable circumstances and alternatives. In the event that they need to change, meaning change behind, and in entrance of the digicam.”

James has drawn the ire of some followers for not being extra vocal in regards to the franchise’s racism, particularly in mild 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 girl he selected because the winner and the present’s longtime host.

James can neither bear the burden of the franchise’s ills nor the load 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 tackle the racism constructed into the constructions of the present and the leisure trade as a complete. 

James isn’t even the primary Black result in be put within the place of courting a white contestant with a historical past of racist opinions and habits 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 “indignant Black lady” on her season. This month she mentioned that after her contractual obligations to “The Bachelor” are fulfilled, she shall be carried out with the franchise. 

‘The Bachelor’ executives have failed to appreciate that casting a various set of contestants just isn’t the identical factor as creating equitable circumstances and alternatives. In the event that they need to change, meaning change behind, and in entrance of the digicam. A supply near Matt James

Different contestants of colour have reported comparable experiences of tokenization, exploitation and racist backlash that some say the present failed to arrange them for or help them by means of. 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 serious advocate for racial fairness throughout the franchise, advised HuffPost over the summer time that they felt that that they had been framed as “aggressive” villains, and thus set as much as obtain huge backlash. LaNease Adams, a Black lady forged 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, advised 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 in the end dismissed on First Modification grounds. Nonetheless, after the lawsuit, starting with Sean Lowe’s season of “The Bachelor,” the casts grew to become notably extra numerous. However contestants of colour nonetheless not often make the present’s coveted closing 4, and even once they do,  they’re typically not given the identical quantity of display screen time and optimistic consideration as their white friends. 

Pieper James, one of many Black ladies on James’ season, tweeted on Feb. 11 that Black 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 adjustments the franchise shall be evoking to fight the tokenization of BIPOC people.”

Till the final two weeks, nobody from the manager staff 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 profits on Cameo and has continued to look on the already-filmed episodes of this season.)

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

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