Rachael Kirkconnell addresses her racial insensitivity and ignorance in first public interview on 'After the Final Rose'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/16/2021
Rachael Kirkconnell discussed her racial insensitivity and was asked to explain her mistakes during a seemingly tense and uncomfortable interview with After the Final Rose host Emmanuel Acho on Monday night's The Bachelor finale.
The racism controversy "has been a lot, as anyone can imagine, but I don't want to sit here and victimize myself," Rachael told Emmanuel when sitting in the hot seat on the After the Final Rose special.
Rachael was accused of bullying a girl in high school for dating a Black man and recently liking offensive photos on Instagram, such as two friends posing in front of a Confederate flag.
In addition to an image of Rachael dressed in Native-American costume that has circulated online, photos also resurfaced of Rachael attending an antebellum-plantation themed "Old South" fraternity party at Georgia College & State University in 2018.
Emmanuel explained to viewers that "antebellum" means "before the war" in Latin and so the antebellum South is honoring the South before the war that freed the slaves.
When looking at one of those photos of herself smiling big in a pink ballgown, Rachael said, "I see someone who was living in this ignorance without even thinking about who it would be hurting."
"I never once asked myself at any point, like, 'What is the tradition behind this? What does this represent? Why do we wear those dresses?' I'm not going to sit here and say I didn't know any better because I could have easily asked myself those questions."
Rachael admitted, "I never took the time to make that connection, because if I would have taken the time, I easily could have understood what was wrong with it."
Emmanuel also pointed out the definition of "prejudice" is "a willful commitment to ignorance."
The sports analyst, author and former NFL player therefore asked Rachael whom she blames for her ignorance -- whether it be her education, upbringing or familiarity.
"I don't want to sit here and blame my upbringing on where I grew up, the location of it -- being raised in the South. In my eyes, there's just no excuse," Rachael said.
FOLLOW REALITY TV WORLD ON THE ALL-NEW GOOGLE NEWS!
Reality TV World is now available on the all-new Google News app and website. Click here to visit our Google News page, and then click FOLLOW to add us as a news source!
"I did get a lot of people saying, like, 'This is normal where I grew up... I didn't know [that's what it stood for] so it can't be racist because I'm not racist.' And I think people need to realize that just saying, like, 'This is normal' where I came from or 'this is common' where I came from, that doesn't make it right and that doesn't make it okay."
Emmanuel, however, did not want to label Rachael "a racist." He said there is a difference between being racist and being racially-insensitive or racially-ignorant.
"I've been very intentional about saying what you did was racially-insensitive, it was racially-ignorant and it plays itself out as racism, but that doesn't necessarily classify someone as a racist," Emmaneul explained.
"You have to pull back the curtain and look at their intention. Was their intention malicious?"
With that in mind, Emmanuel asked Rachael what took her so long to apologize given she had waited about six weeks to break her silence and release a statement on her offensive actions.
"I wanted to not just say the right words just to have people accept them but I wanted myself to really understand exactly why people were so hurt by this, because of course I want to do better," Rachael revealed.
As far as the steps Rachael is currently taking to do better, be better, learn and grow, Rachael shared, "I can sit here and give you a list and say, 'I've been reading this and I've been watching these documentaries and these movies and I've been listening to these podcasts,' and it's great to educate yourself."
"But I don't think anything is going to change if we don't take those actions to put that education into play," she added.
Rachael clearly knew she had signed up for The Bachelor to date a Black man, so Emmanuel questioned how many sleepless nights Rachael had worrying about when or if those old insensitive photos might resurface during Matt's season and potentially ruin her life.
"Being completely honest, I didn't think about it one time because at that point, you know, it was just me taking some photos with my friends. I didn't think anything of it; I didn't think of the trauma that it would cause," Rachael admitted.
Rachael and Matt revealed on After the Final Rose they had ended their relationship after filming over this racism controversy. Matt apparently broke up with Rachael because he didn't think she understood his life or perspective as a Black man in America.
Matt also said Rachael -- who allegedly initially didn't understand why her actions were "problematic" for Matt or the Black community -- must do the work to educate herself on her own and it's not his weight to bear or responsibility to help her.
"It was hard because I lost the love of my life," Rachael cried on After the Final Rose, "but in the process of that, I hurt him while doing so... I love him so much and I always will. And I do feel like I finally do know what real love feels like."
Matt confessed his feelings for Rachael won't go away overnight, but he didn't confirm whether the door is slightly left open for reconciliation between the former couple down the road.
"I'm here to say I was wrong. At one point, I didn't recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn't excuse them. My age or when it happened does not excuse anything," Rachael wrote at the time.
"They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist. I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended. I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it is no one's responsibility to educate me."
Rachael continued in her apology, "I am learning and will continue to learn how to be antiracist, because it's important to speak up in the moment and not after you're called out. If you are a person who doesn't understand the offense in question, I urge you to learn from my mistakes and encourage you to use them as a teachable moment."
"As for my family, I love them and how they raised me to be my own individual," Rachael wrote at the time.
"They have always encouraged me to have my own views, opinions, and beliefs. As I was thinking about what I wanted to say, I couldn't help but think about how sick people must be of reading these kinds of statements; how a person didn't realize the trauma that their actions would inflict on other people. It must get so exhausting."
Rachael therefore said she wantedo put her "energy towards preventing people from making the same offensive mistakes that I made in the first place, and I hope I can prove this to you moving forward."
She concluded her post, "Racial progress and unity are impossible without (white) accountability, and I deserve to be held accountable for my actions. I will never grow unless I recognize what I have done is wrong. I don't think one apology means that I deserve your forgiveness, but rather I hope I can earn your forgiveness through my future actions."