During a conversation with Janet Mock for Interview magazine in August, Kim Kardashian responded to the accusation that she was talentless with this quip, “You can say a lot of things about me, but you cannot say I don’t work hard.” Her business acumen is pretty impressive given that it all seemed to unfold organically over the course of 10 years since Keeping Up With the Kardashians first aired. But in 2017, following a controversial presidential election and a freshly ignited conversation about race and gender, people want to know more than Kardashian’s net worth. And for all the things we can say about her success, a popular retort has been that the reality star is actually not woke enough.
2017 saw Kardashian open up about a variety of different social issues in both official and unofficial capacities. At the top of the year, she expressed her disapproval of Trump’s travel ban by tweeting statistics that show how deaths by Islamic terrorists pale in comparison to violence committed by other Americans. In May, an episode of KUWTK aired that showed her and sisters Kourtney and Khloé visiting a local Planned Parenthood, and getting more information on the services they offer. The following month, on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, she penned an impassioned essay about the need for stricter gun control laws in the United States. During her interview with Mock, Kardashian said she is very aware of how important it is for her biracial daughter, North West, to be around people who look like her. Later on KUWTK, she and her family visited a homeless women’s shelter. And just last month, she hired a lawyer to help with the clemency cases of Cyntonia Brown and Alice Johnson — two Black women that many people believe have been unjustly incarcerated — according to an exclusive from the Daily News. This year, Kardashian made it very clear exactly what she cares about.
But this philanthropy and issue-raising has not necessarily garnered Kim Kardashian the title of woke bae. Far from it, as she continues to face scrutiny for what many people believe is cultural appropriation and at worse wilful ignorance on issues of race. Kardashian was forced to apologise to her fans after calling them “petty” for bringing up the racism and anti-Blackness of beauty blogger Jeffree Star. Unfortunately, her apology did more harm than good because she suggested that she “didn’t know enough about” the situation. Many felt that being married to a Black man and having children who are also Black should come with some awareness.
I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Kardashian may never give me a thorough analysis on issues of race and equality. And I’m also not willing to hoist her up as a martyr for the work she’s done thus far. Kim Kardashian has a lot of work to do, especially around race, to rectify her constant proximity to Blackness and the responsibility she has as a person with privilege to work on their behalf. We live in a moment when Colin Kaepernick has already set the advocacy bar high by sacrificing his personal success for what he believes in. So I’m not ready to applaud Kardashian for simply speaking up.
She has access to wealth and resources that can literally change people’s lives. What she’s doing for Brown and Johnson is a great example of putting those coins to work. And there are plenty more opportunities for her to show up and support others who can’t do so for themselves. But just like we can’t call her lazy, we can’t say that in 2017, she didn’t at least make an effort, and that should count for something.