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The Bachelor's Rachael Kirkconnell addresses racist photos: "Stop saying that I did nothing wrong"

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"The Bachelor" contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, who is one of three women still competing for the heart of the first-ever Black Bachelor Matt James, is addressing her racist past in a new video. Kirkconnell has been surrounded by controversy for weeks after host Chris Harrison was forced to temporarily step down from the franchise for defending Kirkconnell's offensive photos. 

In an Instagram video on Thursday, Kirkconnell responds to the controversy, which includes photos of her attending an antebellum-themed college party in 2018, and allegedly liking and sharing social media posts with the Confederate flag and Qanon conspiracies. She had previously posted a written statement earlier this month.  

At the start of the seven-and-a-half minute video, Kirkconnell said, "the first big step in all of this is White people stepping up and taking accountability. Things will never change if we don't all work together in working towards this racial progress and this unity that we want."

The 24-year-old said she hasn't posted antiracism links or resources in the past because she did not want it to come off as "performative." However, she says she has realized that people's opinions of her are not "what really matters."

"This entire movement and where we are in this country, it's just so much bigger than this, and I want and need to use my privilege and my platform that I so do not deserve just to shine a light on these issues and try to do what I can to take a step in the right direction."

Kirkconnell said she is telling herself that "this entire experience, with what's going on right now, was a blessing in disguise because maybe it can wake a lot of people a lot."

Kirkconnell went on to emphasize the importance of having uncomfortable conversations and putting in the work to "unlearn" racism. 

"The learning never stops. We all need to continue to educate ourselves," she said, pointing viewers to antiracism resources in her Instagram Story and bio. She included articles titled, "How I confronted the truth about my fraternity's racist history" and "Why your native-inspired Halloween costume devalues our Indigenous cultures."  

Kirkconnell concluded the video by telling her followers that they should not be defending or excusing her past behavior. 

"Please stop. That's not our place to tell people what they can and can't be offended about," she said. "That's wrong and that's part of the problem, so please stop saying that I did nothing wrong. That's not true. If you really want to support me, then encourage me to do better and encourage those around you to do better to accept change and allow others to learn and grow because we need to work together on this if anything is going to change."

"I'm so sorry," she concluded. "I just hope I can earn your forgiveness and your grace through my future actions." 

Harrison, who has hosted The Bachelor since 2002, announced earlier this month he is stepping away from the show for a "period of time." His announcement came after a controversial interview on "Extra" with the first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, in which he defended Kirkconnell after she was accused of racist acts.

During the most recent episode of the show, James met Kirkconnell's family, and she reiterated that she was falling in love with him. 

Earlier this week, James said in a statement that it has been "devastating and heartbreaking" to learn about "incredibly disappointing" photos of Kirkconnell and subsequent comments made by Harrison.

"Chris' 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." 

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