We Weren’t Born This Way

Pragya Sharma is a contributing member of the F Word Media Collective. 

Kim Kardashian isn’t a woman who’s known for her politics.  Instead, she’s known for a well-timed sex tape that catapulted her into fame; a reality television show with her family; extravagant weddings followed by failed marriages; and a relationship with Kanye West.  So, it surprised me when I heard that she posted an essay on her website yesterday, detailing how having a half black child has changed her perception on racial politics in America.  What also surprised me was that instead of accepting that people’s political positions change, prominent websites and commentators have been ridiculing and shaming Kim for not “seeing” race earlier than she did.  Even feminist websites like Jezebel which admittedly aren’t known for their kindness, are mocking Kim for finally realizing that, in her words, “racism and discrimination are still alive.”  

For everyone that’s shaming Kim for making a public post on racism: when did you learn that racism exists?  Were you born with an intricate understanding of white supremacy?  I know I wasn’t.  Despite being raised in an Indian family in the Canadian prairies, I was taught that racism does not exist.  I, like most people in the Global North, had been fed the myth of meritocracy from the moment I was born.  I held on to this myth so strongly that even when my mom was sure she didn’t get a job because of her accent, I rolled my eyes and told her that she probably just messed up the interview.  I couldn’t believe my own mother’s experience because I needed to believe that I could be successful in this world if only I tried hard enough.  And that’s me, a brown woman, who doesn’t really benefit from ignoring the impact of white supremacy in my life.

The anomaly, then, is when we have a major celebrity acknowledging racism.  Combine that with our culture’s obsession with perfectionism and complete utter lack of accountability, I can’t help but wonder if Kim’s post is kind of amazing.  I mean, she not only talks about racism, but she admits that she was wrong when she didn’t see it as a problem in the world and admits she was wrong in not recognizing it as something she’s responsible for combating.  Let’s put it this way: A celebrity who’s constantly criticized for what she wears, what she says, what she doesn’t say, who she marries, how she marries them, how she lives and how she breathes, not only acknowledges that she made a mistake, but publicly declares that racism is a big deal and that she’s responsible for doing something about it.  And what do we do?  Mercilessly mock her.

Seriously?  How can we possibly expect those that benefit from white supremacy to ever change anything when all we do is mercilessly shame them when they start to shift their consciousness?

(And don’t even get me started on the misogyny in all the commentators who brush her off as incapable of thinking of anything other than fashion.  Someone who’s built a multi-million dollar empire around a sex tape ain’t no fool.)

3 Comments on “We Weren’t Born This Way”

  • It’s ironic, because the mockers are so pleased with their own lack of bigotry, but they’re exercising bigotry. Kardashian=boobs=stupid :therefore: couldn’t possibly have anything to say about anything. Conclusion: mock.

    Coming down on other people’s racism to prove how enlightened you are is starting to look like the 21st century version of Lady Bountiful.

  • Hasmik

    As Shirley Chrisholm said, “Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread, and deep seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal.”

    Thank you for this insightful blog.

  • Thank you for your comments, quixote and Hasmik. I love that Shirley Chrisolm quote!

    -Pragya

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