Actress Ellie Kemper on Monday acknowledged her White “privilege” and apologized for participating two decades ago in a debutante ball hosted by an organization that she said had an “unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past.”
“I was not aware of this history at the time, but ignorance is no excuse,” Ms. Kemper, 41, said in a statement posted on Instagram. “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 of a system that has dispensed inequal justice and unequal rewards.”
Ms. Kemper was crowned Queen of Love and Beauty at the 1999 Veiled Prophet Ball in St. Louis, Missouri, and was escorted by William H.T. “Bucky” Bush, the youngest brother of former President George H.W. Bush, the Daily Beast reported.
The “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” star had stayed silent until now after a May 31 tweet calling her “KKK queen” and including a newspaper photo of her being crowned at the event went viral. The event was founded by former Confederate soldier Alonzo Slayback and was racially segregated until 1979, though any possible connections to the Ku Klux Klan are unfounded, the Daily Beast reported.
Ms. Kemper said in her apology that she hopes to use her experience and “privilege” to help create a “better society.”
“There is a very natural temptation, when you become the subject of internet criticism, to tell yourself that your detractors are getting it all wrong,” she said. “But at some point last week, I realized that a lot of the forces behind the criticism are forces that I’ve spent my life supporting and agreeing with. I believe strongly in the values of kindness, integrity, and inclusiveness. I tried to live my life in accordance with these values. If my experience is an indication that organizations and institutions with pasts that fall short of these beliefs 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 are capable of becoming,” she added.