I know, I know: nobody can “make” some apologize for a non-offense, and nobody should. But in the society we live in, she probably felt like she had no choice. Surely nobody thinks she is actually sincere when she says she views having been casually labeled “KKK princess” by ugly ideologues “in a positive light”:
Actress Ellie Kemper is apologizing for her involvement in a debutante ball as a teenager that has come under recent criticism for the organization’s controversial history.
. . . .
“When I was 19 years old, I decided to participate in a debutante ball in my hometown,” she began. “The century-old organization that hosted the debutante ball had an unquestionably racist, sexist and elitist past. I was not aware of the 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,” she continued. “At the same time, I acknowledge that because of my race and my privilege, I am the beneficiary of a system that has dispensed unequal justice and unequal rewards.”
Kemper went on to add, “I believe strongly in the values of kindness, integrity and inclusiveness. I try 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.”
Allahpundit puts her Grave Offense in context:
When she was 19 years old, she participated in something called the “Veiled Prophet Ball,” a debutante soiree in St. Louis. That ball had been started by a former Confederate officer in the 19th century and excluded blacks and Jews for years but was integrated in 1979, a year before Kemper was born. She took part in 1999, making her guilty of nothing more than enjoying an institution that used to be racist but no longer was.
Which virtually every other American is also guilty of. How many institutions in this country that pre-date, say, the 1950s have a spotless record on race? If Kemper has to apologize, shouldn’t everyone who’s golfed at a country club built before the 1980s need to apologize too?
I guess that’s the idea. Today, Kemper, tomorrow, the golfers.
Any institution in which you voluntarily participate, that has any sort of questionable background, now makes you — personally — subject to being labeled a racist. Do you shop at a supermarket? How dare you. Don’t you know that supermarkets have “chased white, suburban customers at the expense of black communities in urban areas”? And there you are, helping them oppress the downtrodden minority. You dirty racist.
I recently wrote a newsletter that attacks the simplistic framework you have been sold that employers typically reject resumes with black names. The argument is subtle, revolving around issues related to socio-economic status, and Nic and I have been discussing it comments to my post about it. One thing that occurred to me this morning, though, is how easily such an argument could be seized upon by Twitter and twisted into something it isn’t (“Patterico says everyone with a distinctively black name is low class!! FIRE HIM!!!1!”).
This sort of thing doesn’t just degrade the discourse, it makes it positively dangerous to discuss or do almost anything. You don’t even have try to be controversial to be a victim of this. For Ellie Kemper, this nontroversy was like a bolt of lightning out of the sky. And if you don’t engage in some apologetic theatrics in response (Allahpundit notes the “struggle session vibe” to Kemper’s remarks) there is a real danger that society will target you for some kind of mass shunning.
I’m not a fan of the term “cancel culture” given its abuse by Trumpist righties. But whatever you call it, there is a very real, twisted phenomenon out there that causes someone like Ellie Kemper to feel she must “apologize” for having done absolutely nothing wrong 22 years ago.