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The Bachelor’s Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell Say They’re Doing “The Work To Be Truly Antiracist”

The Bachelor's Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell talking to each other.

The Bachelor endgame couple Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell have decided that they are giving their relationship another try after breaking up earlier this year.

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In a recent interview with WSJ. Magazine, the former Bachelor said he and Rachael are trying to make things work after they broke up earlier this year when photos surfaced online showing her at an Antebellum South plantation-themed party.

“I think the best way to put it is that we can have critical conversations about being in this relationship and what I need in a partner — especially if that woman isn’t Black — to understand what comes with me and my life and being Black,” he said.

“It’s on people who care about being allies to do the work to be truly antiracist,” continued James. “And I think it’s unfair to leave people without the ability to unlearn and be better.”

“If you have different people of color all across the board, it’s going to help you tell a story that’s more representative,” James said. “If someone has never … been with someone who doesn’t look like them, they’re going to have a hard time.”

Well, there is a lot to unpack here, so let us try to do it with some level of #grace.

As someone who has been in interracial relationships, this is a subject that I try to approach with the understanding that a partner of a different race will usually have a certain learning curve when it comes to understanding certain nuances. As a Black woman raised in America with immigrant parents on the East Coast, my Blackness is a combo platter of a lot of lived experiences, that a white person especially might not understand. But, when entering a relationship with a white person, there should be at least some understanding that they have done basic anti-racist work.

In the reunion special with Matt and Rachael that aired, he explained that what was so disappointing was having to explain to Rachael what was problematic about the photos of her on the plantation that went floating around the internet.

Matt says in the clip that he didn’t feel like Rachael understood what it meant for him to be a Black man in America and how it would impact their children. For the record, Matt is biracial, with a Nigerian father and a white mother, and that relationship is already … very complicated. Regardless, he says that he “didn’t sign up to have this conversation.”

That is a flag for me because Matt James is the first Black man to be the lead in this franchise—a franchise that is notorious for its lack of diversity. Yet, knowing he would be in a situation with a lot of women who would be outside of his race … he didn’t think that these conversations would be part of the package? He does say that is work she needed to do on her own, which is totally valid—but it also feels like they didn’t have any important conversations to get to a place where you’d be comfortable making this woman your wife. Publicly.

In looking at the comments below this video, it is also made clear that the series was never prepared to deal with Blackness on a deeper level than representation and diversity points. It is an issue if, in 2018, during the Trump presidency, BLM protests, and conversations about race that were happening in this country, you went to an Antebellum South plantation-themed fraternity formal.

Then you decide to be in a relationship, on a hugely public show, with a Black man.

It is a frustrating thing to watch, especially because due to the demographics of the audience, people are rooting for them without caring about the work that needs to be done in order to make “healing” a real factor. It is a frustrating thing to watch not because Rachael can’t change—hell, I hope she has grown, for her own sake—but because it just further infantilizes the kind of growth and knowledge we should expect from white partners.

White folks don’t know everything; they should have the grace to make mistakes, but it doesn’t help when people all over the internet think it is no big deal to participate in Antebellum culture in the first place. It doesn’t help when her mistake is treated as a childish error, when she was an adult and BIPOC kids never get to make childish mistakes.

It isn’t simply about Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell. it is about the way white people’s racial mistakes are meant to be building blocks that people of color are supposed to help them stack up. Again and Again.

(via PEOPLE, image: ABC)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.

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