Someone like Kim Kardashian will always have a difficult time being taken seriously. So when she published a short piece on race and racism in America, she took a big risk. For the most part, very few people think of Kim Kardashian when they think of experts in the field of race relations, but she actually admitted to something few people in her position are willing to point out about themselves.
The highlight of Kardashian’s piece (which you can read in its entirety here) is this bit:
“To be honest, before I had North, I never really gave racism or discrimination a lot of thought. It is obviously a topic that Kanye is passionate about, but I guess it was easier for me to believe that it was someone else’s battle. But recently, I’ve read and personally experienced some incidents that have sickened me and made me take notice. I realize that racism and discrimination are still alive, and just as hateful and deadly as they ever have been.“
Many people found this troublesome. They argued that she should not be given credit for acknowledging the existence of racial issues (especially in a country that was built on racial issues). It was also said that she should not be given credit for opening her eyes to the obvious. Many found this beyond problematic—it could be read as offensive and insulting to people who have been fighting against racial discrimination, and who are victims of racism every day.
What She Got Right
Another way of looking at it is to say that Kim Kardashian did what few privileged Americans do: she admitted the truth about her nonexistent relationship to the issue of racism. Indeed, race has never been her problem in America. And why would it be? It’s never affected her life, nor the lives of those around her. Sure, she has friends of color, but most of them are famous and/or well off (which makes a difference in their experiences) and none of them has been as vocal about race relations as her fiancé Kanye West. And now that she’s raising a daughter of color, it’s a good sign that she’s beginning to consider the reality for black Americans as it differs from her own.
Admitting Your Privilege/Ignorance Is the First Step
Kim Kardashian took a huge first step here, but few will acknowledge this because it exposes a sad truth for all of us. With great privilege comes great ignorance, and we all participate in a society that allows people like her to remain ignorant, up until the point where their ignorance is literally looking them in the eyes (thank you, North West). Rather than dismiss her, we could all do well to consider the reality of fame and the upper class — where race really isn’t an issue for most. Kardashian’s recent acknowledgement paints an honest portrait of our society, whether we like what we see or not.