The latest season of The Bachelor has delivered its fair share of drama so far, but Matt James' on-screen search for love has been overshadowed by the real-life racial controversy surrounding one of the women trying to win his heart. Rachael Kirkconnell, who may well receive the final rose from Matt James, started generating scandal shortly after the season started airing, with a photo of Kirkconnell at an Antebellum party in 2018 circulating. Aside from a statement that she released on social media several weeks ago, Kirkconnell has mostly kept her silence about the racism scandal, but has now announced her intention to stop "hiding."
Rachael Kirkconnell released her initial statement regarding her attendance at an Antebellum party back on February 11, saying that she hadn't recognized how "offensive and racist" her actions were at the time and that age doesn't excuse that her "ignorance was racist." Kirkconnell asserted that she deserves to be held accountable and hoped that an apology means that she would be able to earn "forgiveness" through her future actions, then went silent again. On February 25, Kirkconnell opened up again.
In a new Instagram video, Rachael Kirkconnell shared that she has received a lot of comments after her initial statement asking about changes she has made and what resources she has been using, and it was enough for her to decide to stop "hiding." She said:
But I've come to realize that sitting aside and hiding in the corner and avoid being called performative, that doesn't help anyone or anything. And if that is what people think when I speak on these subjects of injustice and racism, that's not what really matters. This entire movement and where we are in this country, it's just so much bigger than this, and I want and need to use my privilege and my platform that I so do not deserve just to shine a light on these issues and try and do what I can to take a step in the right direction. And I keep trying to tell myself that this entire experience, what's going on right now, was a blessing in disguise because, you know, maybe it can wake a lot of people up, and maybe it already has started to. And I think one of the most crucial parts to all of this is to talk to each other and to have these conversations and to have these uncomfortable conversations and to learn to unlearn, and to do the work. We have so much work to do.
According to Rachael Kirkconnell, part of her original motivation to not speak out about her situation was because she didn't want to come across as performative, and she shared a link to antiracism resources on her Instagram page. Kirkconnell certainly does have a platform at this point whether she likes it or not, and the fact that she hasn't been eliminated on The Bachelor just yet guarantees that the controversy surrounding her isn't about to simmer down just yet.
Viewers may have to wait for the "After the Final Rose" special to find out the real end game for Matt James, depending on whether he gave Rachael Kirkconnell his final rose and how he has handled the situation since. Spoilers indicate that the racial controversy surrounding what was supposed to be a season that made history for good reasons resulted in a recasting for the next season of The Bachelorette. Kirkconnell didn't get into details on how she's handling everything herself, but she ended her video with another apology and to reiterate that she's done hiding:
And again, thank you for holding me accountable. I'm so sorry. I know that doesn't change anything. But like I said in my statement, I just hope I can earn your forgiveness and your grace through my future actions, and I'm done waiting around for the time to speak, and I'm done hiding from all of this.
What Rachael Kirkconnell's decision to be "done hiding" means for the near future remains to be seen, but eyes will presumably continue to be on her for as long as she remains a contender for Matt James' heart on The Bachelor. His season finished production quite a while ago, but the episodes are only just airing, and James himself shared that he's finding out about the various stages of the controversy in real time.
Of course, the situation with Rachael Kirkconnell's photo only escalated due to longtime Bachelor Nation host Chris Harrison, who used an interview with Rachel Lindsay, who made television history as the first Black Bachelorette, to defend Kirkconnell and condemn "cancel culture." He later apologized for the interview and announced the intention to step aside from the Bachelor franchise, but the damage was done.
For now, the future of Bachelor Nation is uncertain. The franchise itself isn't going anywhere no matter what happens with Chris Harrison as host, but it's probably safe to say that Rachael Kirkconnell won't be getting a second shot at love with The Bachelorette or Bachelor in Paradise.