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Kathryn Dennis Addresses the Social Media Controversy: "I Take Responsibility"
The Southern Charm cast member reflected on sending a monkey emoji.
In an interview with The Daily Dish, Kathryn opened up about the controversial message she sent a Black radio host earlier this year that included the use of a monkey emoji.
In the December 3 episode of Southern Charm, Kathryn explained the series of events: "My friend was having a Trump parade party and I'm not f--ing political. I'm not into Trump. I'm not into anyone. But they were bullying her. This woman was bashing my friend Katie, so I started responding. I don't even remember what I said, but I do know the monkey emoji ended up coming up... She kept hearting every message that I sent ... I was like that's how serious I take this with the monkey emoji, which I picture going like this [squatting] because it looks funny and it's awkward and that's my sense of humor and now I'm f--king apparently racist."
But in a phone interview with The Daily Dish this week, Kathryn said that she "100 percent" understands why her message sparked such a strong reaction, given that it has racial implications: "I think I made a mistake and it's one that anybody could make. And I take responsibility and I'm glad that honestly it happened in the public because I think it happened for a reason and I think that now I have a platform to use it to change instead of going into hiding and letting myself be defeated," she said.
In Thursday's episode, Leva Bonaparte says that Kathryn reached out to her following the incident, which sparks an emotional discussion among Leva, Danni Baird, and several of their friends about the history of racial injustice, including how monuments like the one of Kathryn's relative John C. Calhoun are triggering for Black people and other minorities. They also discuss the racial and social reckoning happening both in Charleston and across the country amid the Black Lives Matter movement.
At the time of the episode's filming, Kathryn faced backlash, including getting let go from her position at Gwynn's. She also didn't attend the event focused on the removal of the Calhoun statue featured in the episode.
"I wanted to be there [at the statue removal], but I didn't go obviously because the death threats are pretty intense," Kathryn explained this week. "I don't think I would have been well received. I do want to say I support that [removal]."
She also said, "I genuinely am sorry that I had such a lapse in judgment and I am all of the things that you'd want to say. Yes, you can call me ignorant. You can call me privileged. You can call me selfish, but I'm not racist. In that moment, I was not saying something racial. I made a mistake. I said something that now I realize is insensitive — I will own that. But I will not own something that isn't true and that is that I said something intentionally racist."
Kathryn noted she did walk away from the experience having learned a lesson. "I'm not going to get involved in anything that doesn't have to do with me. I'm gonna take responsibility for myself and that's it — responsibility for me as a person and as a mother and setting that example for my kids. It's been a big eye opener in a lot of ways and learning all these life lessons on a show in the public is very difficult because it gets blown up, but I'm doing my best as a mom to not let my children have to go through anything because of all this. I'm just trying to make sure I'm intentionally being super proactive in my part and learning."
She continued, "I think that I learned that I have still so much to learn and that life is a perpetual lesson. Since the situation happened, I've been constantly researching, constantly digging, just to try and figure it out."
That also means understanding more about her family's history.
"I learned that I have to be more proactive, especially the fact that I do have a middle name and a last name that has a political reference and an undertone that isn't so great [...] This is Southern Charm, all of us have a history, not just me. We aren't as aware of it maybe as people may think and that's because none of us really talk about it because it's kind of taboo to talk about it. The show is really the first platform where any of us talked about it, otherwise it was kind of in history class [...] None of us ever talked about our family histories, therefore never really understood much about this."
She called this time "a learning moment and a path to a purpose."
"My life purpose has to come from here somehow. I just don't know quite what that is yet. It has to be some kind of coincidence or divine intervention that all of this happened right at the very time that our climate in the world culturally is what it was. I'm still thinking that it's going to be leading me to a real different path."
Following the controversy, she focused on her two kids, Kensington and St. Julien, and is now thinking about the possibility of going back to school. She also said she apologized to the radio host and they have not spoken since then.
Kathryn concluded, "I just want people to know that I'm a human. I made a mistake. I'm genuinely sorry for anyone I hurt in that moment and any moment of this."