A thorn on Bachelor Nation: a lesson from contestant’s racist social media history

Jilian Denlow, Staff Writer

Following the premiere of the 25th season of The Bachelor, an American dating and relationship reality TV series, it was unexpected that immediate fan-favorite Rachael Kirkconnell would be revealed as a controversial figure. This most recent season is much more than just a process to find love; instead, it is a perfect example that anything you decide to post, tweet, retweet, upload, comment on and like is going into a permanent record something that is very difficult to ever erase and can have a long-lasting impact on your future.

I have to admit, watching this show is a guilty pleasure of mine. Despite the drama, fighting and cheesy romance, I, along with millions of others, can be reminded of a vital lesson in the case of Kirkconnell.

28-year-old Matt James announced last June that he was going to take on the role as the lead of ABC’s hit show, The Bachelor, as the first Black bachelor in the series’ history. His decision to join Bachelor Nation surrounded his hopes to find a partner who shared his same values.

One thrilling part of the early phases of the series is getting to know each of the contestants—who you predict will earn the coveted 1-on-1 date with the star and who you believe will be the perfect match for the lead role of the upcoming season of the Bachelorette. Early on, many viewers predicted that one contestant in particular, Rachael Kirkconnell, was going to go far, and, as it turns out, they were right.

24-year-old Kirkconnell was born and raised in Cumming, Georgia, a suburb just outside of Atlanta. As the season progressed and the number of women began to decrease drastically, Rachael remained at the top of James’ radar, along with many viewers’ as well. However, since her past has been revealed, fans have changed their minds.

Expectedly, Bachelor Nation did some digging into Kirkonnell’s past, where alarming information was found left and right. First, a TikTok posted by a woman who claims to have attended high school with Kirkonnell reads, “Girlieee, remember when you bullied me in high school for liking Black guys???” with the rhetorical caption, “BECAUSE I REMEMBER.” Although the comments have been turned off by the individual who posted the viral video, several other videos have been posted by the same woman, providing evidence, as well as various messages from people who have shared their own negative experiences with Kirkconnell throughout high school and college.

The accusations did not stop there. Once again posted on TikTok, a different user released screenshots of Rachael’s unsettling social media footprint, including uploads of QAnon theories on one of her accounts, liking pictures of her Trump-supporting friends smiling in front of a Confederate flag and photographs of Kirkconnell at an antebellum-themed fraternity party while attending Georgia College.

Kirkconnell’s perpetuation of racism through conspiracy theories, Confederate flags and odes to the antebellum South are not something to be taken lightly. Her actions were incredibly ignorant and deeply harmful not only to people she has personally interacted with but also to viewers who enjoy the series.

“I think it is really surprising and disappointing that the producers allowed Rachael to come on the show in the first place. I thought they would have done some research prior to casting her. Then, after finding out, they did a horrible job addressing the situation,” senior Gabi Froum says. “The Bachelor franchise as a whole needs to do better.”

On Feb. 11, Kirkconnell finally broke her silence, coming out with an apology via Instagram, which read: “While there have been rumors circulating, there have also been truths that have come to light that I need to address… At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them… I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”

The situation, in addition to causing extreme emotional harm to Black people everywhere, portrays how what we post has the potential to hurt others even years later and is a somewhat permanent representation of who we are as individuals.

As I am sure we have all been told this many times, I urge you to take this example to heart. If you are active on social media, you may occasionally post something that you later look back on and ask yourself “Why?” We often make decisions on social media without anticipating the importance of our actions: they can be potentially damaging to not only our personal brand but others’ lives as well. In an endless sea of posts, it’s easy to forget that everything written online can and will, without a doubt, be found through search results, for far more years than you’d ever expect. Best-selling author Meredith Fineman quotes, “More than anything—think before you shout. Because the echo is forever.”