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Swarthmore native Zinzi Clemmons accuses Lena Dunham of 'hipster racism,' quits project

The author just released her critically acclaimed debut novel.

Zinzi Clemmons, who grew up in Swarthmore, criticized Lena Dunham for ‘hipster racism.’
Zinzi Clemmons, who grew up in Swarthmore, criticized Lena Dunham for ‘hipster racism.’Read moreNina Subin

Strath Haven High School grad Zinzi Clemmons has called on "women of color … to divest from Lena Dunham" as a result of the Girls star's alleged "hipster racism." Clemmons also announced that she will no longer write for Dunham's weekly newsletter, Lenny Letter.

"She cannot have our words if she cannot respect us," Clemmons, who was raised in Swarthmore, wrote in a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday.

Clemmons released her first critically acclaimed novel, What We Lose, earlier this year.

In that statement, Clemmons wrote that she "ran in the same circles" as Dunham and fellow Girls star Jemima Kirke while the author was a student at Brown University. At that time, Kirke attended Rhode Island School of Design, which is nearby Brown, and Dunham, who is a longtime friend of Kirke's, went to Oberlin College in Ohio.

Read more: Swarthmore native Zinzi Clemmons on her debut novel about 'sex and death'

Clemmons claims that Dunham and her friends were known for "their well-known racism" at the time, which caused her to avoid "those people like the plague." In one example, Clemmons wrote that one friend "in Lena's circle" used "the N word in conversation in order to be provocative," and claimed she was joking when called on it.

"I'd call their strain 'hipster racism,' which typically uses sarcasm as a cover, and in the end, it looks a lot like gaslighting," Clemmons wrote. "'It's a joke. Why are you overreacting?' is a common response to these kind of statements."

Clemmons, however, wrote that she ultimately decided to leave Dunham's Lenny Letter after the Dunham threw her support behind Girls writer Murray Miller, who actress Aurora Perrineau recently accused of sexual assault stemming from an incident in 2012 when she was 17-years-old.

"One of my best friends was victimized in almost the exact same way by someone in Lena's circle," Clemmons wrote. "It was never addressed, and he continues to move in those circles and has a powerful job … Let's hold Lena accountable, and to me that means sacrificing some comfort and a little bit of cash, in this moment."

Dunham had issued a message of support for Miller on Friday, writing that "during every time of change there are also incidents of the culture … taking down the wrong targets. We believe, having worked closely with him for more than half a decade, that this is the case with Murray Miller."

Dunham was heavily criticized for her statement of support, which prompted her to issue an apology on Saturday. In it, Dunham writes that she "naively believed it was important to share" her perspective on the situation.

"I now understand that it was absolutely the wrong time to come forward with such a statement and I am so sorry," Dunham wrote. She has not, however, responded to Clemmons' statement.