Matt James is looking back at his relationship with Rachael Kirkconnell and how her racism controversy built up to their split.
Sitting down with host Emmanuel Acho on Monday’s The Bachelor: After the Final Rose special, Matt revealed that they were no longer together, and reflected on what it was like to see racist photos and comments from Rachael’s past come to light.
Matt pinpointed a moment in which he truly felt the weight of the implications behind Rachael’s past actions.
“When she spoke out and publicly acknowledged that she would do better and she apologized is when I was finally able to take check on myself and see where I was at, and I wasn’t OK,” Matt said. “It was in that moment and the conversation that I had that [I realized that] Rachael might not understand what it means to be Black in America.”
Looking back at the backlash and public outcry against Rachael — as a result of her having liking racist Tweets in the past, and a photo of her at a Plantation-themed party in 2018, while she was a student at Georgia College & State University — Matt said it was hard to accept at first.
“You wanna believe that you know your person better than anybody else knows your person,” Matt explained. “While all this controversy is Swirling around about who Rachael is — and things that she might have attended and pictures that she liked and people that she’s associated with — before Rachael addressed anything or Chris Harrison spoke on anything, I’m trying to be there for her.”
“I dismissed them as rumors, because that’s what they were to me,” he continued “You hear things that are heartbreaking, and you just pray they’re not true. and then, when you find out that they are, it just makes you question everything.”
For Matt, Rachael’s past actions took him “to a place that I often try not to think about,” as someone who grew up in the south, where there are “events, people, places that I’m not welcome.”
Later in the special, Matt and Rachael reconnected, sitting together on a couch side-by-side. The pair got emotional as Matt explained why he had been so hurt by her actions.
“The most disappointing thing for me was having to explain to you why what I saw was problematic and why I was so upset,” he shared. “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.”
“And so when I questioned our relationship, it was in the context of you not fully understanding my Blackness, and what what it means to be a Black man in America, what it would mean for our kids, when I saw those things floating around on the internet,” he continued. “And it broke my heart.”
“This is the last conversation I thought we’d be having,” he said. “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 that you gotta do on your own. And that’s why we can’t be in a relationship.”
Follow along with ET’s coverage of the Bachelor finale and the After the Final Rose special here.
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