As soon as I heard Emmanuel Acho was chosen to host After the Final Rose, I knew it was going to be a shitshow. Why? Because Emmanuel Acho, host of the YouTube show Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, has made it quite clear he cares a lot about being accepted by white people and he believes the path to ending anti-Black racism is to discuss racism in a manner that is as least likely to offend white people as possible.
One minute into the special, Acho had already lost me. He referred to Rachel Kirkconnell’s appearance in photos from an Antebellum South-themed fraternity formal in which she was wearing a dress befitting an enslaver’s wife as “racially insensitive.” Later in the special, he states he’s been “very intentional” about calling the images “racially insensitive” because there was no malicious intent.
So let’s unpack that. Firstly, intent is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT when it comes to racist, sexist, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, xenophobic, ableist or any other kind of oppressive act. It’s the impact that matters, not the intent. Rachel’s attending of that party, on a plantation, and dressing in the manner she did to glorify the period of American history during which my ancestors were enslaved is incredibly racist. Full stop. Secondly, Emmanuel Acho would have no idea what Kirkconnell’s intent was because he does not know her. His mentioning of Rachel having no malicious intent is just another example of white people always being given the benefit of the doubt in a white supremacist society.
Chris Harrison was suspended, decided to step away, or whatever you want to call it, from The Bachelor franchise because he defended Kirkconnell’s racist acts and in response, ABC simply brought in a Black man to do the same thing.
When Matt James, this season’s Bachelor for those of you who don’t know, was being interviewed by Acho before Rachel Kirkconnell came to the stage, Matt reveals he and Kirkconnell are no longer together (sidenote: I would have lost every ounce of respect I have for Matt James if he had stayed with Rachel now that her many racist acts have come to light). Acho responds, “I’m sorry to hear that.” WHY WOULD YOU BE SORRY TO HEAR YOUR FELLOW BLACK MAN IS NO LONGER DATING A WOMAN WHO LIKELY STILL HOLDS RACIST BELIEFS??? Acho then asks Matt why he couldn’t stay with Rachel and help her grow. Acho also says it could be seen as “callous” to judge Kirkconnell by something she did three years ago.
Let’s unpack again. It is not Matt James’s job to be Rachel Kirkconnell’s personal racism educator. Furthermore, I have never been in an interracial relationship, but I have been friends with white people and if you’re going to have even a friendship with a white person in which you as a Black person or other person of color are honored and respected, you have to discuss race all the time because even a white person committed to dismantling white supremacy is going to have difficulty seeing just how pervasive racism and white supremacy are.
Now let’s unpack the “three years ago” comment. Only when it comes to excusing white people’s racist acts is three years ago considered to be the distant past. Now I’m the first to say I’m not perfect, but you know what I wasn’t doing three years ago? Or ten years ago? Or likely ever? Appearing in racist photos, being friends with white people who use the N-word or making fun of people for dating Black men. These are all things Rachel Kirkconnell has done. When Rachel and Matt came face-to-face, Matt said one of the things he was most disappointed by was that he had to explain to Rachel why her behavior was so offensive.
If he had to explain it to her, it’s clear at that point Rachel was the same person she was in 2018 and she would’ve continued to be that person had her racist behavior not been exposed.
When Acho questioned Kirkconnell about her behavior, she said she was “ignorant.” The fraternity formal Rachel attended in 2018 was hosted by Kappa Alpha. Interestingly enough, I too went to college in Georgia. My freshman year, back in 2000, I was informed that the members of Kappa Alpha were known for engaging in racist behavior, they pointed a cannon at the Alpha house on campus and I believe were suspended by the university, and I should stay away from them. As I said, this was eighteen years before Rachel attended this formal. There is no way she didn’t know the kind of people she was surrounding herself with or the intention behind the event she was attending.
Towards the end of the interview, Acho asks Matt if there’s any hope for reconciliation with Rachel, which Matt seems to suggest there isn’t (Thank God!) and then he asks the former couple if they want to engage in one last embrace. Please understand I am not being hyperbolic when I say this: these are violent acts on Emmanuel Acho’s part. It is violent to suggest it wouldn’t be harmful for Matt to get back together with Rachel. She is light-years away from being capable of being in a relationship with a person of color where that person is honored and respected. It is also clear she’s not fit to be a mother to Black children anytime soon, if ever. It is violent for Emmanuel Acho to want Matt to embrace, physically or emotionally, a white woman who has caused so much racial trauma and pain to him and Black people in this country.
It is not the job of Matt James, or any other Black person, to make white people comfortable. It is the job of white people to dismantle white supremacy and racism.
I didn’t care for Emmanuel Acho before last night’s special, but his eagerness to convince another Black man to ignore his pain for white comfort has made me abhor him. Acho showed Rachel too much grace last night, ABC knew he would and that’s why he was hired. I want anti-Black racism to end as much as Emmanuel does, but treating white people with kid gloves is not the way to do it.
Notably, ABC also chose a dark-skinned Black man with a linebacker’s body to interview Rachel, as opposed to say a Black woman, because they knew he couldn’t be too tough on a thin white woman without appearing aggressive.
I’m not surprised by ABC’s choice because they’ve made it clear they have zero interest in truly diversifying the franchise. Let’s not forget when two Black men sued ABC in 2012 for not being cast on The Bachelorette due to racism, these people argued in a court of law that it was their First Amendment right not to cast people of color. Yes, you read that correctly.
They cast someone they knew had tweeted racist things on Rachel Lindsay’s (the first Black Bachelorette) season of The Bachelorette, Tayshia Adams wasn’t given a full season and now Matt James, the first Black Bachelor, will be remembered for choosing someone with an extremely racist past and being the lead on the season where Chris Harrison had to step away from the show, not for his search for love. Also, there’s no way you can tell me ABC didn’t know about these Antebellum photos or any of the other racist things Rachel’s done, but they cast her anyway and who ultimately paid the price for that? Matt James. He put himself through so much, including the pressure of being the first Black Bachelor and exposing his familial history to the entire country, only to end up as single as he was when he started this journey and significantly more scarred.
Michelle Young, Matt James’s runner-up if you will, will be the Bachelorette for season 18 of the show. While I love Michelle and want to see her find love, I don’t think ABC is anywhere near where they need to be to treat a Black lead equitably and in an anti-racist manner. Here’s hoping they prove me wrong.