Bachelor Matt James Publicly Criticizes Franchise’s Race Issue


WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT THE END OF THE SEASON FOR MATT JAMES OF “THE BACHELOR”.

In a powerful statement posted to his Instagram account Monday night, Bachelor Matt James stated unequivocally that “The Bachelor franchise has fallen short” when it comes to its handling of the breed. After host Chris Harrison defended a contestant who had a troubling history of racist behavior on “Extra,” James said the current moment of reckoning for the franchise “has also pushed me to re-evaluate and process what my experience at The Bachelor. “

James and contestant Rachael Kirkconnell broke up together at the end of the season, and the 24-year-old graphic designer received the final rose in the finale that is still on the air, as Reality Steve reported on January 21. HuffPost has since found out. that James and Kirkconnell are no longer together, and that their breakup was eventually precipitated by recent revelations that she had attended a formal prewar-themed frat event in 2018 and that she liked photos containing images of the Confederate flag. in the past.

James’ statement marks the loudest he has spoken publicly about the franchise’s relationship to the breed since he was cast as the first black bachelor in June, following nationwide protests against police brutality and racism. (“It is an honor,” James said “Good Morning America” At the time. “I’m just going to lean on myself and how my mother raised me, and hopefully when people invite me to their homes on Monday night, they will see that I am not much different from them and they will see that diverse love in the stories. they are beautiful “).

It’s also a very unusual step for a franchise leader to publicly criticize the show before its season ends airing.

But in the wake of host Chris Harrison temporarily “departs” from franchise after going to a 15-minute rant about the “police awake” for the first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, on “Extra,” the stakes were up. As James wrote in his statement, he felt compelled to “address the troubling information that has come to light since we finished filming.”

“As the season progressed, it became clear that Matt’s presence on the show was an example of what many POCs face on a daily basis. He and black women had to take on the added responsibility of helping ‘The Bachelor’ address diversity issues and were often exploited, ”a source close to James told HuffPost. “The executives of ‘The Bachelor’ have not realized that choosing a diverse group of contestants is not the same as creating equal conditions and opportunities. If they want to change, that means changing behind and in front of the camera. “

James has drawn the ire of some fans by not talking more about the franchise’s racism, especially in light of his obvious connection to Kirkconnell on the show. But he has also been placed in a painful position because his journey as the first Black Bachelor has been overshadowed by controversy over the racist actions of both the woman he chose as the winner and the longtime host of the show.

James cannot bear the burden of the franchise’s ills or the burden of saving it. “The Bachelor” has had a strained relationship with race, and blackness in particular, long before James’ season, and a more diverse cast doesn’t address the racism built into the show’s structures and the entertainment industry in general. .

James isn’t even the first black lead to be put in the position of dating a white contestant with a history of racist opinions and behavior on social media. In 2017, Lindsay’s suitors included Lee Garrett, whose tweets compared the NAACP to the KKK and called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist group” (among many other racist, Islamophobic, homophobic, and misogynistic posts). emerged how the season aired. Lindsay has publicly stated that she felt like she was framed as the “angry black woman” in her season. This month he said that after his contractual obligations to “The Bachelor” are fulfilled, he will end the franchise.

The executives of ‘The Bachelor’ have not realized that choosing a diverse group of contestants is not the same as creating equal conditions and opportunities. If they want to change, that means changing behind and in front of the camera.
A source close to Matt James

Other contestants of color have reported similar experiences of tokenization, exploitation and racist reactions for which some say the program did not prepare or support them. Both Kupah James, contestant on Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season of “The Bachelorette,” and Taylor Nolan, contestant on Nick Viall’s season of “The Bachelor,” who is now a leading advocate for racial equity within the franchise, said to HuffPost during the summer they felt that they had been framed as “aggressive” villains and thus prepared to receive a massive backlash. LaNease Adams, a black woman who appeared on the first season of “The Bachelor,” He recalled finding his photo on a white supremacist website and then experiencing mental health problems. Y Jason Mesnick, the first and only Jewish bachelorHe told HuffPost last year that the show had downplayed his Judaism, even discouraging him from breaking a glass at his 2010 televised wedding to his now-wife Molly.

In 2012, two black men spearheaded a racial discrimination class action lawsuit against the franchise, which was ultimately dismissed on First Amendment grounds. However, after the lawsuit, beginning with Sean Lowe’s season of “The Bachelor,” the casts became noticeably more diverse. But contestants of color rarely make it to the show’s coveted four finalists, and even when they do, they are often not given the same amount of screen time and positive attention as their white peers.

Pieper James, one of the black women in James’s season, tweeted on February 11 thatBlack women in this franchise must always be very aware of our ‘grace’ because no one is extending it to us. ” then added that she was “waiting to hear the systematic changes that the franchise will evoke to combat the tokenization of BIPOC individuals. “

Until the last two weeks, no one on The Bachelor’s executive team has faced even the slightest consequences for this racist story. (Even though Harrison is supposedly going away to go on an anti-racist journey, he has kept making money with cameo and has continued to appear in episodes already filmed this season.)

James, it seems, just hopes his season can precipitate the kind of institutional change that contestants of color and viewers have been asking for for years. As he wrote on Instagram: “My biggest prayer is that this is a turning point that results in real and institutional change for the better.”

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