Ellie Kemper has apologized for her participation as a teenager in a debutante ball put on by an organization with a "racist, sexist, and elitist past."
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and The Office star recently faced criticism online for participating in a ball in 1999, when she was 19, that was hosted by the Veiled Prophet Organization. This group "was known for racist and exclusionary practices, including barring Black members until 1979, and faced numerous civil rights protests over its history," according to Snopes.
"The century-old organization that hosted the debutante ball had an unquestionably racist, sexist, and elitist past," Kemper wrote on Instagram. "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 went on to "unequivocally" denounce white supremacy, while acknowledging that she has been "the beneficiary of a system that has dispensed unequal justice and unequal rewards."
Though some tweets that emerged amid the controversy labeled Kemper an alleged "KKK princess," Snopes noted that "the organization itself has no known connection to the KKK," and there was also "no evidence that [Kemper] herself harbors racist beliefs."
But the actress wrote on Instagram that although "there is a very natural temptation, when you become the subject of internet criticism, to tell yourself that your detractors are getting it wrong," she said that she "realized that a lot of the forces behind the criticism" against her "are forces that I've spent my life supporting and agreeing with."
Kemper concluded by apologizing "to the people I've disappointed" and promising 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."