Earlier this month, when Kim Kardashian premiered her selfie with Hillary Clinton (featuring Kanye West in the background, doing a mesh of mean mug and amusement), my immediate reaction was, “I hope she’s not trying to sell HRC on the benefits of wearing a waist trainer.”
I was guilty (as many are) of dismissing the idea of Kardashian having any legitimate interest in political and social causes. Well, none that don’t directly involve her, anyway. But as vapid as Kim Kardashian can be, there is something skeptics like me must accept: she’s been trying to show substance lately.
A year ago, Kardashian took to her site to pen a personal post that detailed how having a mixed race daughter has shed light on the realities of racism.
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.
This earned her a resounding “duh” across the Internet, but Kardashian did go on to note, “I feel a responsibility as a mother, a public figure, a human being, to do what I can to make sure that not only my child, but all children, don’t have to grow up in a world where they are judged by the color of their skin, or their gender, or their sexual orientation. I want my daughter growing up in a world where love for one another is the most important thing.”
Her intent was to convey that motherhood is changing her, and that her eyes were beginning to open up—she's seeing the world beyond her bubble. It’s one thing to date and marry black men, but it’s another to actually be a mother to a black child who will experience things she will never be forced to. In many ways, Kardashian has lived up to the promise of her post.
In July, Kardashian wrote on Twitter, “#WhatHappenedToSandraBland We need answers!!!! This is NOT ok! This is all shady! They need to own up to this & tell the truth!” Arguments ensued immediately, with people wondering whether or not she truly “cared.” It’s a stupid question to pose. At this rate, it should be very clear that Kardashian is methodical and hyperaware of what it means to extend her name to something be it a product or a victim of police brutality. She cared enough to bring attention to it and the end result was arguably Bland’s story being carried on entertainment programs that might’ve otherwise ignored the story.
In mid-August, Kardashian also used her Twitter feed to bring greater attention to the issue of gun control. In a series of tweets, Kardashian recalled the story of David Conley, whom she notes “slaughtered his ex girlfriend & her entire family! Her 6 kids,husband & her!”
She went on to explain: “He purchased the gun & ammo ONLINE! How is it so easy to purchase guns online!!! Does this not sicken you? No background checks needed!!!!!”
As Stephanie Martin reported over at The Huffington Post, it was not the first time Kardashian had spoken out about better gun control. Two months prior to the tweets, during a Q&A in Oakland, Kardashian was asked for an idea that would change the world. Her response was “gun control.”
And then there is, of course, her support of Caitlyn Jenner. One of my favorite moments of the About Bruce specials and Caitlyn Jenner’s new docu-series, I Am Cait, is watching Kim Kardashian make sure that Caitlyn Jenner is closer to Blanche Devereaux in style than Sophia Petrillo. No, transitioning and womanhood in general are not just about great clothes. Nonetheless, it is important to Caitlyn, and if there’s one thing a former stylist can offer, it is her taste level. Kim Kardashian has been the most visibly supportive cast member from Cait’s old show on her new one—and it matters.
In essence, Kardashian has been living up to the pledge she made a year ago. What made it difficult to see that shift—albeit subtle—is that as one of the world's most-covered and most visible stars, we're still seeing her usual narrative: A selfie. Another selfie. A nude photoshoot. Another nude photoshoot (not that there's anything wrong with that). And a selfie of her on the set of her nude photoshoot. It's why Kim Kardashian is often hailed or ridiculed as the perfect symbol of society: vapid and self-involved. It's easy to forget the good she's trying to do
Her superficial and narcissistic aspects are irrefutable. Yet, like many of her fans, she can’t help but be forced to see the world as it is: full of injustice and social upheaval. As a result, Kim Kardashian has tried to do something about it—no matter how small or large, insignificant or important, one may find it.
No matter where you fall on that, let’s reach an accord that it could be worse: Kim Kardashian could be using her celebrity to play footsies with white nationalists like the current frontrunner of the Republican presidential primary, Donald Trump.
Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard University educated writer who wants a show that'll allow him to recite UGK lyrics with Beyoncé. He's working on his first book, I Can't Date Jesus, for Atria Books.