Ellie Kemper Apologizes For Debutante Ball With Racist Origins – Deadline


Ellie Kemper has responded to the recent surfacing of her participation in a St. Louis debutante ball that has origins in early 20th century racism and anti-Semitism, with the former Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star saying she was not aware of the event’s history but that “ignorance is no excuse.”

In an Instagram post today, Kemper, who competed in the 1999 Veiled Prophet Ball during her freshman year at Princeton University, wrote, “I unequivocally deplore, denounce, and reject white supremacy. At the same time, I acknowledge that because of my race and my privilege, I am the beneficiary or a system that has dispensed unequal justice and unequal rewards.”

Read the entire statement below.

The actor’s participation in the ball – she was crowned the Queen of Love and Beauty – came to light last week when Twitter users shared old newspaper clips of Kemper’s involvement. The Veiled Prophet Ball was founded in 1878 and barred Black and Jewish Americans from participating. According to a 2014 article in The Atlantic, the Veiled Prophet Organization was partly created in “response to growing labor unrest in the city, much of it involving cooperation between white and Black workers.”

Wrote Kemper today, “The century-old organization that hosted the debutante ball had an unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past. I was not aware of this history at the time, but ignorance is no excuse. I was old enough to have educated myself before getting involved.”

She continued, “There is a very natural temptation when you come the subject of internet criticism, to tell yourself that your detractors are getting it all wrong. But at some point last week, I realized that a lot of the forces behind the criticism are forces that I’ve sent my life supporting and agreeing with.”

Kemper, who rose to fame on The Office, apologized to “the people I’ve disappointed,” and promised to “listen, continue to educate myself, and use my privilege in support of the better society I think we’re capable of becoming.”

Here is her entire statement:

The century-old organization that hosted the debutante ball had an unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past. I was not aware of this history at the time, but ignorance is no excuse. I was old enough to have educated myself before getting involved.

I unequivocally deplore, denounce, and reject white supremacy. At the same time, I acknowledge that because of my race and my privilege, I am the beneficiary or a system that has dispensed unequal justice and unequal rewards. There is a very natural temptation when you come the subject of internet criticism, to tell yourself that your detractors are getting it all wrong. But at some point last week, I realized that a lot of the forces behind the criticism are forces that I’ve sent my life supporting and agreeing with.

I believe strongly in the values of kindness, integrity, and inclusiveness. I try to live my life in accordance with these value. If my experience is an indication that organizations and institutions with pasts that fall short of these believes should be held to account, then I have to see this experience in a positive light.

I want to apologize to the people I’ve disappointed, and I promise that moving forward I will listen, continue to educate myself, and use my privilege in support of the better society I think we’re capable of becoming.

Thanks for reading this.

 





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