It has been a minute since Matt James’ season aired, and controversial first-place winner, Rachael Kirkconnell is sharing more details about how she views the explosive scandal that was sparked by her past.
While speaking in an interview with From Privilege to Progress, Rachael discussed her thoughts on race, racism, and how ignorance can very much be racist.
Rachael Kirkconnell felt ‘weird’ about her college photos resurfacing
Matt James being the first Black Bachelor forced the woefully noninclusive franchise to face race like never before. So when Rachael Kirkconnell’s racially insensitive past resurfaced it naturally caused a major issue.
Rachael was called out for liking TikToks that favored the Confederate flag as well as for photos of her and her sorority having an Antebellum-themed party in college.
The photos of Rachael caused an uproar due to the party’s theme having deep roots in racism and glorifying slavery.
In her recent interview Rachael shared, “It was honestly weird reliving all of that, having that photo resurface from that time in my life, [because for] everyone…including Matt, it was like that had just happened. For them, it was brand new, but for me, it was years ago.”
Rachael revealed that she didn’t see the harm in the plantation party at the time and viewed it as an innocent photo op.
She shared the way that she justified the party by saying, “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.’”
Rachael admitted that she “didn’t think anything about it because it didn’t affect me personally.”
Interestingly, her attendance at the party did end up affecting her personally when the photos made headlines during The Bachelor Season 25, with tons of viewers calling her reputation into question, especially since she was actively pursuing a Black man.
It seems once the photo had personal consequences, Rachael realized why the party was so problematic and acknowledged that her attendance was racist.
Rachael expressed, “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.’”
Rachael opens up about learning to be anti-racist
Rachael has continued to reiterate that this experience taught her ignorance can be racist and also that there is a big difference between being “not racist” and “anti-racist.”
Rachael is now in an interracial relationship with Matt James and while she works towards getting educated and being truly anti-racist, she made it clear that it is not Matt’s job to educate her about race and that she must take initiative when it comes to building her own awareness.
After being publicly exposed and humbled, Rachael learned she must be an active agent of change and that being accountable and aware of race and Black history is long overdue.
She shared, “I realized I need to stop standing aside and I need to speak up and do something because…we should have been going this for years and years.”
Bachelor in Paradise airs on Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c on ABC.