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The Bachelor's Rachael Kirkconnell Is Clearing The Air Months After Racism Scandal

Rachael Kirkconnell talks to Matt James on The Bachelor After the Final Rose

Matt James’ season of The Bachelor was jam-packed with drama and controversy, but one storyline overshadowed everything else and caused such backlash that it literally changed the landscape of the Bachelor franchise forever. That storyline, of course, involved the resurfaced 2018 photos of Rachael Kirkconnell at a plantation-themed fraternity party. And now, many months after the scandal first drew national attention and led in part to Chris Harrison's ousting, Kirkconnell has revealed that she'd actually quit the sorority following that party, and said she deleted the problematic photos when she realized “that isn’t who I am or who I want to be.”

Rachael Kirkconnell, who ultimately received Matt James’ final rose, participated in an Instagram Live with the organization From Privilege to Progress, in which she said that the offending 2018 party, which she herself called “racist," was part of the reason she decided to leave her sorority at the time. In her words:

Between that and just a lot of other things about Greek life, I was like, ‘I don’t wanna be a part of this anymore,’ and I dropped out after that. That’s the first time my eyes opened about ‘OK, there’s a difference between being not racist and anti-racist.

Rachael Kirkconnell claimed she was “completely ignorant” about the implications of the antebellum theme. However, as she’s said in the past, her ignorance is not an excuse for her actions. She also said:

I’m so ashamed that I basically participated in that unknowingly because I’m sitting here in my own little privileged, selfish world just thinking, ‘Oh, we just put dresses on to go take a photo op.

At the time, Kirkconnell said she justified the theme as being part of the fraternity’s tradition, without fully contemplating the bigger picture.

If I had to think about it at the time, I was probably just thinking, 'OK, just some super traditional fraternity and they probably just want to continue the tradition of what they used to wear when the fraternity was founded.'

Matt James, the first Black man to lead The Bachelor, gave his final rose to Rachael Kirkconnell in the Season 25 finale, but revealed on the “After the Final Rose” segment that the two had split up amidst the controversy. After being spotted together in New York earlier this year, though, James confirmed in May that the couple had reunited, saying it was "unfair to leave people without the ability to unlearn and be better.” Which makes the timing of Kirkconnell's new admissions all the more curious, since she wasn't being put into a defensive position by anyone.

Perhaps the biggest change to come to the Bachelor franchise after the controversy was the ousting of longtime host Chris Harrison. Harrison participated in an interview with former Bachelorette (and the franchise’s first Black lead) Rachel Lindsay, in which he defended Rachael Kirkconnell. Harrison faced severe backlash for his comments and apologized, but he ultimately parted ways with the franchise, and has yet to return.

Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe took over hosting duties for Katie Thurston and Michelle Young’s seasons of The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise went in a different direction entirely with its variety of different guest hosts, including superfan David Spade. There’s been no word on who will serve as host Season 26 of The Bachelor, or who the lead will be, for that matter (unless you believe the rumors, that is). In the meantime, Bachelor in Paradise Season 7 is currently airing on ABC, and be sure to check out our 2021 Fall TV Schedule for the premiere dates of all your favorite shows.

Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.