Opinion: Ellie Kemper doesn’t deserve it

It wasn’t true — Kemper wasn’t a “KKK princess” — but it didn’t matter: The damage was done, and no matter how many journalists pushed back on the simple narrative, the internet spun around the false conclusion that “Ellie Kemper Was a racist beauty queen.” By the next week, Kemper had apologized On Instagram for her involvement with an organization that had an “undeniably racist, sexist and elitist past”.

She said in Monday’s post, “I wasn’t aware of history at the time, but ignorance is no excuse. I was old enough to educate myself before getting into it. I clearly condemned, condemned, white supremacy. And at the same time, I acknowledge that because of my caste and my privilege, I am a beneficiary of a system that has given unequal justice and unequal rewards.”

It is imperative to note America’s long history of racism and discrimination, and it is good that our society is in a moment of greater examination of its past as it tries to move toward a better future. And Kemper’s statement was strong, thoughtful, and correct—she, like many others, has benefited from a wildly unequal system of racial hierarchy.

But there is a danger in simply imposing the sins of our country on the backs of teenagers – or anyone adjacent to an institution with a “racist, sexist, and elitist past” – the kind of nuanced public shaming campaigns that descended on Kemper. Through this .

Kemper does not pile-on accountability; This is oppression under the guise of social justice. And because these online outrage campaigns are heavy on self-righteousness and light on facts, they don’t really help us account for anything.

There is no doubt that the Weald Prophet Ball, which still exists and where Kemper was crowned Queen of Love and Beauty in 1999, actually did A bleak past—and, like all debut balls, a sexist presence (the “new admission” of young women for observation by available bachelors isn’t exactly a feminist tradition). The ball was founded by the white Missouri elite, including a Confederate soldier, and was a bastion of conservatism that stood in opposition to social change – including racial equality.
For decades, the ball excluded African-Americans and Jews. By the 1970s, however, members of the Weald Prophet organization—which also held a fair and a parade—were more embarrassed by the ball’s racism; He opened the organization for black and Jewish people until 1979, before Kemper was born. In the early 1990s, they changed names Some of the Weald Prophets organization events – the Weald Prophets Parade, for example, became “America’s Birthday Parade” – in an additional attempt to break from the past.
In a statement issued last week, Veil Prophet Organization declared: “Our organization believes in and promotes inclusion, diversity and equality for the region. We completely reject racism and have never partnered with or affiliated with any organization that harbors these beliefs ”

It also does not make the ball or the organization behind it a bastion of social progress or a just place. This makes it an institution founded on racism that has taken small, significant, and still insufficient steps towards greater equality – an institution that certainly deserves criticism, but by no means a white supremacist by its modern incarnation. manufactures.

In this respect, it is not so different from nearly every other centuries-old American institution, including the Southern Baptist and Mormon churches, most major universities, every branch of the American government, and America itself: each at some point excluded African-Americans. and discrimination against women. Each one remains imperfect, and each one carries a disturbing amount of racism and sexism to the present day.

In fact, it’s unclear why an Internet mob would lie down to Kemper and apologize for attending a ball with a racist past, but not for attending Princeton University—one with historical ties to the American slave trade. The school in which women were excluded dates back to 1969, and remains atop the Ivy League as a bastion of American elitism.

UNC's slap on Nicole Hannah-Jones is no different
Or why Kemper apologizes and doesn’t, say, President Joe Biden, who attends a church that not only has a racist and sexist past, but an aggressively sexist present, as it continues Formally ousting women from leadership. But no one is demanding that those who go to the many churches that oust women from power, apologize. (Biden also currently holds a position that is arguably the pinnacle of white male elitism, never held by a woman in more than 200 years, and just once by a black man).

I would say that it is overdue and necessary to examine, criticize and demand betterment of our institutions. Attack campaigns on individuals who, like almost all of us, attended institutions with ugly pasts – and in particular attack campaigns that people did as children and teenagers – did not focus.

It is essential work to dig into the history and continued influence of organizations like Wealth Prophet and understand their current power in the context of their racist and sexist histories. But it requires patience to really dig in. For many people, it’s easier — and certainly more gratifying — to trash a stranger for an alleged violation, and to feel quite religious by comparison.

Kemper is a wealthy and famous actress; This will not ruin his life, even if his reputation is hurt. But it’s hard to see how well this dust-clad did for the reasons Kemper’s critics say they believe. Opponents of racial progress and those who hinder the work of understanding American fundamentalists so that we can repair them – to oppose the “awakening” under the veils – are already using this story as an example. How clearly progressive people are eager to subject everyone to their two minutes of hatred.

Kemper’s apology, and those seeking it, did not show a clear path forward or present a coherent and coherent set of ethical guidelines. And many of us who believe that humans and institutions can change and evolve for the better – who believe that the American appetite for public shame and harsh punishment has been devastating to American society at large and Especially devastating for the country’s most vulnerable. – Disturbed by viral outrage for paying excessive attention to and yielding to a teen’s behavior… what, exactly?

The work of facing the past and building a better future is messy and incomplete, and it is perhaps inevitable that there will be redundancies, conflict, and brutality in the brainstorming. None of us gets it right all the time, and certainly the damage done to Kemper pales in comparison to the brutalities of American racism and misogyny.

But we do this, for ourselves and for each other, to try to get the facts out of the way before hopping on online outrage campaigns, the system of power to address as much bad personal choices, and America’s ugly past and its The wildly imperfect try to approach the present. He deserves honesty, fairness and depth of nuance.


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