Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia’s historic and dramatic season of The Bachelorette came to a close with Tuesday's After the Final Rose live show, but one surprising and disappointing revelation was especially upsetting for fans.
Gabby’s final man and fiance, Erich Schwer, came under fire after a high school yearbook photo surfaced showing him in blackface. The photo, which circulated widely in a now-viral Reddit post, shows Erich wearing blackface and an afro wig during what appears to be a costume day at school.
Blackface, in case you’re not familiar with it, is the practice of darkening the skin to look like a person of color. The practice has a very racist history, dating back to minstrel shows in the 1800s, per CNN, and it promotes "demeaning stereotypes of Black people."
Erich publicly apologized, and although the show failed to address the photo on Tuesday, Gabby also commented on the situation in a new interview with People. Here’s what you need to know about the controversy.
Erich apologized on Instagram.
Soon after the photo surfaced, Erich shared an Instagram post, apologizing for the photo.
“I wholeheartedly apologize for the insensitive photo of me in Blackface from my high school yearbook that has been circulating,” he wrote. “What I thought at the time was a representation of my love for Jimi Hendrix, was nothing but ignorance.”
Erich said he was “naïve to the hurtful implications of my actions to the Black community and those closest to me,” adding that he will “forever regret my offensive and damaging behavior.” Erich also said that he is “deeply ashamed by my actions and understand that my apology is only the first step in taking accountability.”
Gabby hasn't publicly addressed the controversy.
Fellow 'Bachelorette' contestants have spoken out.
Nate Mitchell, who had his own controversy this season, offered support in the comments section of Erich’s post.
“Appreciate you taking ownership bro,” he wrote. “I can’t absolve you of this but I can attest to the man I’ve met and you have been nothing less than someone who I’d consider a friend. You aren’t the first person I’ve befriended with a similar past and the difference is not having an attitude of willful ignorance."
Nate then added, "Your school accepting this behavior and posting this to a year book tells me that no peers or faculty around you spoke out to guide you away from this issue. Kids do fall victim to their environments time and time again. Continue to grow and learn from your past and I’ll continue to support you and provide advice should you need/ask for it.”
Logan Palmer also commented: "takes a man to talk about his mistakes. guys who have met you know what kind of person you’ve been."
Gabby addressed the photo, too.
Erich's now-fiancée told People that she learned about the photo when the rest of the world did. "I was incredibly shocked," she said. "[I] just really had to process my thoughts and then think about how we can grow as a couple and learn from this."
She admitted that it was difficult to confront the blackface controversy, especially since Erich was also under scrutiny after his ex came forward with some claims that he might not have gone on the show for the right reasons.
"Ultimately it was a time for us to take a step back and reflect on our relationship and see if we can get through this," Gabby said. "You have to really lead on your communication, be really honest with each other while having these tough conversations. We're seeing how we can become better from both."
He's not the first Bach Nation contestant to get heat for a racist costume.
If you recall, Rachael Kirkconnell from Bachelor Matt James' season also faced her share of criticism, controversy, and questions surrounding her past racist behavior, which included photos of her attending an "Old South" fraternity party in college and wearing culturally appropriative costumes.
Like Erich, she also publicly apologized for her past actions in an Instagram post. Rachael went on to win her season. And, after a brief breakup, she is still dating Matt James.
The incident spurred a joint statement from other season 25 contestants who denounced racism within the franchise.
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