'The Bachelor' star Matt James is "frustrated" people assume his winning bachelorette is white
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 01/14/2021
The Bachelor star Matt James says he's "frustrated" many people assume he's not going to pick a woman of color at the end of his journey to find love on Season 25.
During The Bachelor premiere on January 4, Matt asked to speak with host Chris Harrison before meeting 32 bachelorettes about the pressures he felt from being named the franchise's first Black Bachelor.
"People want you to end up with a certain type of person... You've got certain people who have views, old-school views, on what a relationship is and what love looks like... You've got people who are cheering for you to end up with a specific person, a specific person of a specific race," Matt explained to Chris.
"That's something that kept me up at night. It's like, I don't want to piss off Black people, I don't want to piss off white people, but I'm both of those... It's like, how do I please everybody?"
During a Tuesday appearance on The Bachelorette alums Rachel Lindsay and Becca Kufrin's Bachelor Happy Hour podcast, Rachel explained to Matt that many viewers interpreted his comments to mean that he was letting the world know he may not choose the person whom people want him to choose.
"A lot of people, because of all the biases that are already placed on you -- which is so unfair -- assumed that that was a disclaimer that you were not going to pick a woman of color. Now I am sure that conversation was a lot longer than what we saw," Rachel said.
Rachel therefore gave Matt the opportunity to provide context to what he said during that sit-down conversation with Chris on Night 1.
"It's low-key frustrating to even have to address it, because, like, first off, people -- regardless of what they look like -- should want you to be happy with whoever you're with. And if you knew anything about me and if you were close to me, you would know that the last women that I dated were all Black women," Matt shared.
Rachel acknowledged that since neither Tayshia Adams or herself -- the only two The Bachelorette leads of color in history -- chose a man of color on their respective The Bachelorette seasons, many people are expecting Matt to make a similar choice and pick a white woman.
Since Rachel got engaged to Bryan Abasolo on The Bachelorette's thirteenth season, and Tayshia got engaged to Zac Clark at the conclusion of Season 16, Rachel believes there is more pressure on Matt to pick someone who looks like him at the end.
"When you're dating somebody, if you're excluding a race, then I don't even know where to begin on that. Like, my love story included, like you saw on Night 1, there were white women there and there were Black women there and there were Asian women there because those are the women I've dated across the board. And what I'm looking for in a woman isn't race specific," Matt explained.
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Although Rachel admitted she didn't like how Matt's conversation with Chris was presented on television, Matt said he respected Chris for stepping into that conversation with him to begin with.
"You can't get to a resolution without starting that conversation, and it just happened to be me and Chris having that conversation. I don't think it's on me to explain why that hasn't been the case in the past. I can only speak to my experience and what I'm looking for," Matt said.
"And what I'm looking for may upset somebody because what I'm looking for isn't a race. You know what I mean? I don't only exclusively date Black women. I don't only exclusively date white women. I've dated all across the board."
Matt said he's "found redeeming qualities" in every girl he's dated, "which is a blessing."
"That's why it's so difficult for me throughout this season because there are great qualities I love in [Abigail Heringer] and there are great qualities in [Khaylah Epps] and there are great qualities in [Magi Tareke] -- and they all look different," Matt shared.
Matt, whose mother is white and father is Black, told Rachel that he did his best in explaining the situation to Chris and viewers given his experience as a biracial man may differ from someone else's experience.
"Being mixed [race]... I never saw color... It's hard for me to fathom. It would be like me quantifying infinity, like, I can't articulate what that means to only date or only look at and refer to someone in color because that has not been my experience," Matt said.
Rachel then pointed out, "I'm not biracial, but I've dealt with this criticism and I know you do too of, 'Am I going to be too Black in some circles or am I going to be not Black enough in others?' Is that some of the pressure you were talking about [to Chris]?"
"I don't honestly even see it as a pressure anymore, I just see it as a reality. And you see it during the [Black Lives Matter] protests, like, 'What side are you on?' It's like, 'What are you talking about? I'm about the people. I'm about change. I'm about equality,'" Matt explained.
"It's like, 'What do I have to do to prove myself to you? I'm not trying to prove myself; I am just living out who I am.' And it's on other people [who aren't] comfortable with that because it's different from them."
Matt went on to share what he was hoping to accomplish through his The Bachelor stint.
"I'm hoping with them seeing how I handle my business on the show and how I go about my normal life, it makes them comfortable with someone who looks like me being in their living room every Monday and someone who looks like me being more approachable to them in the grocery store or dating their daughter," Matt said.
"That's kind of the pressure I put on myself being in that position... So I feel like I owe it to everyone else who looks like me to represent Black people in a way that is going to allow for more opportunity like this."
Matt reasoned, "Because if I go up there acting like a fool, then they'll be like, 'Alright, this is why we haven't had [a Black Bachelor].' But that's not the case! I'm just like everybody else, and I hope that comes out through the season."
Matt said in conclusion, "I'm hoping 10 years from now, [people will say], 'He was a great Bachelor, and he just happens to be Black,' and normalize something like this."
Matt's The Bachelor season is heading into its third episode next week, and he currently has 24 women remaining in the running for his heart.