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ABC’s first-ever Black Bachelor took to social media shortly after Monday’s episode began to air to address a conversation he has with his estranged father that airs early on in the two-hour show.
The scene featured James sitting down with his dad to address the Bachelor’s upbringing. “There’s still a lot of fear about what a longterm commitment looks like based on what I’ve seen in my family in the past, and that’s not healthy,” James tells the camera. “I still have a lot of fear about what commitment looks like based on him and my mom’s relationship. And that’s not something I want to carry with me. Harboring that negativity in my life hasn’t progressed any of my relationships. It’s hindered my growth. And for me to move forward, I need to address those demons in my life.”
The sit-down came at a crucial moment for the Bachelor star, as he was down to three finalists. Those women — Bri Springs, Michelle Young and Rachael Kirkconnell — were his remaining contestants heading into the traditional week of Fantasy Suites, where James gets an opportunity to have an overnight date with each woman and without the interference of the show’s cameras. At the end of the episode, he would go on to narrow down to his final two women heading into the finale.
In previous interviews on The Bachelor, James has said he was raised by his mother, whom viewers have met previously, after his parents divorced. During the nearly 10-minute scene that aired on Monday, James confronted his father about that history. “When I needed you, you weren’t there,” said the star. “It wasn’t a good thing that I was cheating. I’m not proud of it,” his father replied.
Ultimately, his father apologized for hurting him and James accepted the apology. “Whatever I can do to make it better, I’ll work on it. I want you to be happy for the rest of your life and I want you to have a relationship that’s healthy; not like what I went through,” said James’ father.
Taking to his social media on Monday night, James put the conversation into a larger context, particularly with the sit-down airing during a moment where racial issues and representation surrounding contestants of color are being called out within the reality franchise.
“Tonight’s convo with my dad was hard to experience, and it’s just as hard to watch all this time later, especially knowing the world is watching with me,” James wrote in a Twitter thread.
He continued, “I just wanted to say that too often, we see dangerous stereotypes and negative depictions of Black fathers in media. And they have consequences when presented without context. All I hope is that people watch that conversation with nuance, care, and also an understanding that there are real systemic issues at play. I’m so proud of myself for being vulnerable, and I’m so proud of my mother. I wouldn’t be who I am without my dad. That’s a fact.”
In his post, he included a link to The Opportunity Agenda, a social justice communication lab, and a piece titled, “Media Portrayals and Black Male Outcomes” which explores the link between representations of Black men in the media and public bias.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to ABC and Warner Bros. for comment.
The social media response to James’ post was swift. The Bachelor Diversity Campaign, a group of fans who have called for anti-racism in the franchise, shared some of the responses on their Twitter account (“Why is ABC so comfortable exploiting Black family trauma but so hesitant to show Black love,” wrote one fan) and Rachel Lindsay — the franchise’s first Black Bachelorette who conducted the Chris Harrison interview that kicked off the current firestorm — announced that she was ending her hiatus from talking about the franchise over the episode.
Lindsay, who co-hosts podcasts for both Bachelor Nation and The Ringer, had deactivated her social media accounts over severe online bullying after the Harrison interview fallout. She recently returned to social media and, on Monday, teased an appearance on The Ringer‘s Bachelor Party podcast, saying, “After what I saw tonight… I can’t keep quiet and gotta talk about this @bachelorabc episode and the perpetuation of stereotypes in the Black community.”
James, who is the first male lead in 25 seasons on the ABC franchise, is speaking out one week before the conclusion of his season. The historic cycle wraps on March 15 with a two-hour pre-taped finale that will be followed by a one-hour After the Final Rose special.
The special, which will be hosted by Emmanuel Acho due to veteran host Harrison stepping aside from the franchise due to the off-screen controversy, is set to address the ongoing dialogue surrounding racial issues within the franchise — a larger conversation that was sparked by racist allegations against finalist Kirkconnell and Harrison’s problematic defense of the claims.
The post-season developments have caused James to “reevaluate and process what his experience on The Bachelor represents” as the first Black male lead; he noted in a previous statement that the real-time developments have been “devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly.”
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