Monday night’s The Bachelor: After the Final Rose special not only marked an uncomfortable conversation of racial insensitivity and racism as it pertained to the first Black Bachelor, Matt James and the controversial Rachael Kirkconnell, but it also featured the absence of Chris Harrison.
Harrison took time away from the franchise after his empathetic savior speech in defense of Kirkconnell and her questionable behavior was not well received. Emmanuel Acho took Harrison’s reigns for the After Final Rose special and former Bachelorette stars Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams will alternate hosting season 17 of The Bachelorette.
During The Bachelor’s finale, James selected Kirkconnell over fan-favorite teacher, Michelle Young. As the then-couple’s “love” aired for viewers to see, the relentless nature of the internet walked Kirkconnell down memory lane where a Tik Toker played “Is this you?” with Kirkconnell and her seemingly questionable , if not blatantly racist , gestures.
Although James chose Kirkconnell, he did not propose. Explaining the first few weeks sans cameras, James told Acho, “It felt like an extended honeymoon period. It was super, it was great. Initially, it started out how you would imagine.” Explaining his disappointment in finding out the accusations were true, James told Acho, “it just makes you question everything.”
When Kirkconnell spoke out and gave her apology, James realized the gravity and truth of the situation. “I was finally able to take a check on myself and see where I was at,” James told Acho. “And I wasn’t OK, because it was in that moment and the conversation that I had that Rachael might not understand what it means to be Black in America.”
James noted that he has halted things with Kirkconell giving her space to grow and continue learning. He explained, “As Rachael acknowledged in her apology, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. I have to take a step back and allow her to put in that work. And I’m looking forward to seeing her put in that work.”
James and Kirkconnell faced off after her one-on-one time with Acho where she offered the template apology. Kirkconnell said she was confused by the couple’s relationship ending.
“The most disappointing thing for me was having to explain to you why what I saw was problematic and why I was so upset,” James told Kirkconnell. “And that’s why it was problematic, because when I’m in a relationship, it means that I’m committed to that person — and commitment for me when I’m dating someone is on track to get married.”
James continued, “And so when I questioned our relationship, it was on the context of you not fully understanding my Blackness and what it means to be a Black man in America. And what it would mean for our kids when I saw those things that were floating around the internet…it broke my heart, because this is the last conversation I thought we’d be having. I didn’t sign up to have this conversation. And I knew that I had to take a step back for you to put in that work that you outlined that you needed to do. And that’s something you gotta do on your own.”
James dealt the final blow when he told Kirkconnell, “And that’s why we can’t be in a relationship.”