The first black male lead on ABC’s The BachelorMatt James has spoken out against the controversies surrounding host Chris Harrison and contestant Rachel Kirkconnell.

In an Instagram statement, James wrote, “The reality is that I’m learning about these situations in real time and it has been devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly. Chris’s failure to receive and understand the emotional labor that my friend Rachel Lindsay was taking on by graciously and patiently explaining the racist history of the Antebellum South, a painful history that every American should understand intimately, was troubling and painful to watch.”

“As Black people and allies immediately knew and understood, it was a clear reflection of a much larger issue that The Bachelor franchise has fallen short on addressing adequately for years,” James continued. “This moment has sparked critical conversations and reporting, raised important questions and resulted in inspiring displays of solidarity from The Bachelor Nation, It has also pushed me to reevaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor represents, not just for me but for all the contestants of color, especially the Black contestants of this season and seasons past and for you, the viewers at home.”

James added, “I will continue to process this experience and you will hear more from me in the end. My greatest prayer is that this is an inflection point that results in real and institutional change for the better.”

Earlier this month, Kirkconnell received backlash after photos surfaced from a 2018 antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal. She has since apologized for the photos and said that her “ignorance was racist.”

The photos became a topic of conversation between Harrison and former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay. He defended Kirkconnell and believed that she became a target of cancel culture. Following the interview, Harrison stepped aside as host of the series and he will not appear in the series recap episode.

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