Rachael Kirkconnell is speaking out.
In her first public statement since facing criticism for resurfaced photos and her alleged past social media behavior, The Bachelor contestant says she "didn't recognize how offensive and racist" her actions were.
For the uninitiated, Rachel, who is currently competing on Matt James' season of the ABC dating show, was recently accused of attending a "antebellum plantation themed" fraternity formal in 2018. The resurfaced photos—and host Chris Harrison's defense of Rachael—has sparked conversation within Bachelor Nation.
Now, the 24-year-old has broken her silence on the matter, apologizing for her past actions and promising to "learn how to be antiracist."
Rachael's statement, which she shared to Instagram on Thursday, Feb. 11, read, "While there have been rumors circulating, there have also been truths that have come to light that I need to address. I hear you, and I'm here to say I was wrong."
She continued, "At one point, I didn't recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn't excuse them. My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist."
The Georgia native offered an apology to the "communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended," adding, "I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it's no one's responsibility to educate me."
Rachael said she is focused on "learning how to be antiracist," because as she described, "it's important to speak up in the moment and not after you're called out."
She also mentioned her relationship with her family, writing, "I love them and how they raised me to be my own individual. They have always encouraged me to have my own views, opinions, and beliefs."
Rachael's statement concluded, "As I was thinking about what I wanted to say, I couldn't help but think about how sick people must be of reading these kinds of statements; how a person didn't realize the trauma that their actions would inflict on other people. It must get so exhausting. I want to put my energy towards preventing people from making the same offensive mistakes that I made in the first place, and I hope I can prove this to you moving forward."
"Racial progress and unity are impossible without (white) accountability," she added, "and I deserve to be held accountable for my actions. I will never grow unless I recognize what I have done is wrong. I don't think one apology means that I deserve your forgiveness, but rather I hope I can earn your forgiveness through my future actions."
On Feb. 9, the controversy involving Rachael reached a boiling point when Chris gave an interview to The Bachelorette alum-turned-Extra correspondent Rachel Lindsay. During their conversation, Chris questioned if Rachael's punishment for attending the party was actually worse than her crime.
"I've seen some stuff online—again this judge-jury-executioner thing—where people are just tearing this girl's life apart and diving into, like, her parents and her parents' voting record," he shared at the time. "It's unbelievably alarming to watch this."
In light of the backlash Chris received for his own remarks, he released a statement apologizing to fans for reacting in a way that "perpetuates racism."
Prior to Rachael coming forward, Matt shared his perspective on the accusations against his potential fiancée. Find out what he had to say here.