Kim Kardashian West is on the official schedule of one President Donald Trump, as she is visiting to lobby to free an imprisoned black person she’s chosen in some Hunger Games-like one-by-one lottery. This time she’s lobbying to free Chris Young, who is serving life in Tennessee for cocaine and marijuana possession. These grandiose gestures are good PR for Kim and a great way for Trump to tout himself as a non-racist, but other than that, I’m not sure exactly what any of this accomplishes. Whatever it is, it damn sure isn’t prison reform and it damn sure isn’t a sign that Kim Kardashian is suddenly an “ally” to black people.
Let’s get this out of the way before I continue:
I’m glad that Alice Marie Johnson is free. She was arrested in 1996 for a first-time nonviolent drug offense and sentenced to life in prison. Now 63, the great-mother is one example of how the prison industrial complex traps black people for their entire lives when less severe punishments are certainly suitable. So I’m glad that Kim Kardashian used her influence to go speak to Donald Trump to get her out of jail. Nothing I say forward will contradict this paragraph.
Now. Let’s clear up a few things. The history of the world has shown us innumerable instances of white people who don’t care about black people doing things that are beneficial to specific black human beings – from “nice” slave owners to Strom Thurmond sharing some semblance of an affectionate relationship with his black daughter and granddaughter to even Donald Trump campaigning for Omarosa’s success from The Apprentice up until their recent fallout (where he called her a dog, by the way). Even those extreme examples of racists shared at least an inkling of positivity towards a group of people they actively oppress.
Kim Kardashian isn’t a white supremacist like those other folks I just mentioned, but she’s also not someone who has shown much care for black people as a whole. Take this summer’s incidents, for instance. Kanye West’s longtime collaborator and songwriter Rhymefest had just gone on Twitter to out the G.O.O.D. Music head for not contributing to Donda’s House – the nonprofit established in West’s mother’s name to help youths in Chicago. Kardashian responded by making fun of Rhymefest’s Yeezy’s and threatening to hand the nonprofit to her toddler-age children.
To threaten to yank an organization for black kids from the people actually in the field working for them and give it to kids who are too young to show any ability to run said organization, simply out of spite, is anti-black as hell. And Kim’s follow-up that she will “ride for her man” shows that she cared more about the family reputation than of the actual kids impacted by the perceived shortcomings of Donda’s House.
Those last two paragraphs were going to be the crux of a piece I was going to put out as they were happening, then the news broke that Kim would be going to the White House to talk “prison reform,” and I took a wait and see approach. And, like I mentioned, she did get Johnson her freedom. But she didn’t do anything for prison reform. Just like with Meek Mill, freeing one black person isn’t reform. It’s making one special accommodation for one singular person who shouldn’t be in a position to need that special accommodation in the first place. Trump has done nothing in the weeks since he agreed to free Johnson to indicate he wants to change the American prison system, and Kim hasn’t addressed the macro problem of mass incarceration.
Trump got what he feels is a victory in the black demo, his version of Obama’s Beyonce and Jay-Z in the West family, and yet another celebrity so beholden to him that she will now refuse to speak ill of him in public. That’s why Kim has been invited back. Here’s what she said in the aftermath of the Johnson decision about Trump: “There’s obviously a lot that we don’t agree with, but I want him to win. I want him to succeed because it’s our country. It’s so crazy that everyone doesn’t want that.”
This was all said the wake of Trump putting babies in concentration camps.
Kardashian-West may think she is flattering Trump to get what she wants, but she’s not considering the harm in him being able to use her and her husband as a rallying cry for his followers. And any rallying cry for Trump is a rallying cry for the same white supremacy that puts people like Johnson and Young in jail forever in the first place.
Kim Kardashian is working under the auspices that her caring for one black person will give her cover any time she’s accused of anti-blackness or silencing of black people. And, let’s be clear. Kim Kardashian’s empire is built on stealing and whitewashing the looks, style, and trends of black women in order to raise her bottom line. Kim’s whole rise to prominence is based on selling a dream to white women that the biggest blackest athletes can be theirs to use and dispose of with only a quick trip to the surgeon. While also selling a dream to black men that they can get a subservient white women with all the physical attributes of a black woman without having to deal with their “attitudes” and kinky hair. Selling these dreams to those foolish enough to eat them up has made Kim Kardashian and her family what they are today.
Kim Kardashian has used blackness as the renewable energy source for her franchise and if she wants to show any gratitude or even the basic human decency of demonstrating care, then she simply has to do more. Kanye said it himself on “Wouldn’t Leave” that Kim’s primary concern after his comments that slavery was a choice was “we ‘bout to lose it all.” Not the hurt he caused black people. Not the fact that the President is using West’s hateful words to encourage more anti-black support of his campaigns. Not Donda’s House. Just the money built on the backs of black culture.
Nobody is above reproach when it comes to making sure they are allies to black folks, especially if they want to entrench themselves in black culture. Nobody gets to do so without getting checked, and Kim Kardashian has been able to take what she wants without any repercussions or cancelations. And her “I have a black friend” activism just won’t be enough to erase what has gotten her to this point. Caring for a black person is easy. Caring for black people? That’s where the work comes in, and if she’s not willing to do that, then why do we need her in our space?