Actress Ellie Kemper has responded to backlash after photos resurfaced associating her to a high society ball with a racist past.
“The Office” star, who was crowned as Queen of the St. Louis Veiled Prophet Ball in her hometown of St. Louis in 1999 at age 19, began trending last week on social media after Twitter users revealed that the event was run by an organization that many have linked to the Ku Klux Klan.
The notion was based on a 1978 report in the Missouri Republican, which is the year the organization was founded by former Confederate cavalryman Charles Slayback. The report featured an image of the Veiled Prophet in a white robe and matching hood, and noted its resemblance to a Klansman, The Sun reported. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that the organization did not allow Blacks to join for its first century.
“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,” Kemper wrote in a statement posted on Instagram.
“I unequivocally deplore, denounce, and reject white supremacy. At the same time, I acknowledge that because of my race and privilege, I am the beneficiary of a system that has dispensed unequal justice and unequal rewards,” she continued.
“There is a very natural temptation, when you become the subject of internet criticism, to tell yourself that your detractors are all wrong. 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.”
After the photo of Kemper first emerged, Twitter users slammed her for being part of a “KKK cult,” that “only the rich white kids” knew about, but the actress received praise and support after taking accountability for her actions.
“We love you and know you were a kid. I’m glad you said something. You have a good heart,” one Instagram user replied.
“Cancel the behavior not the person. I appreciate this acknowledgement. Thank you. We all need to recognize our part in these old, harmful systems. Peace and love to you. I think you’re pretty rad,” another wrote.
“Thank you for taking the time to apologize, Ellie. And for realizing that though you didn’t know about the white supremacy origins of the organization, fans of yours —who are still affected by the myth of white supremacy to this day — needed to hear that you realize it was hurtful for us to learn about it all and that you are sorry that you took part,” a third added.
The Veiled Prophet Ball was renamed Fair Saint Louis 13 years after the board, which came under scrutiny in the ’70s for not allowing Blacks to join, dropped its segregation rule in 1979.