On Monday night, from the set of some secret project, Kim Kardashian responded to fans who were critical of her decision to defend controversial makeup artist Jeffree Star. Some of the critiques were superficial—why would Kardashian engage with Star after he criticized her swatch skills?—but many were more substantive, pointing to racist videos Star had made nearly 12 years ago.
How much is a useful product tip or two worth? For Kardashian, it was enough to motivate an ill-advised, self-awareness-lacking Snapchat video that resulted in many Black people (and others who know better) across social media effectively responding, “Girl, mind your business.”
In the video, Kardashian thanked Star for “being honest” about how she could improve her swatching before going on to say this: “I see you guys being so petty bringing up things in his past where he, you know, was negative, but he’s also apologized for those things.”
People—celebrities with something to apologize for, especially—often abuse the term “negative” and employ it as a hollow way to denote wrongdoing without offering specifics. But specifics matter, particularly when the “negative” thing one is referring to involves a white person using the phrase “n*gger bitch.” That isn’t just negative, it’s racist. Full stop.
That said, Kardashian did note "that it’s a serious deal if you say racist things, but I do believe in people changing and people that apologize. I will give them the benefit of the doubt.” She then went on to declare that she hates when people bring up her past mistakes and offered the following advice: “Let him live.”
In separate clips, she went on to say that while racism shouldn't be taken lightly, when someone apologizes we should essentially let the past be the past. But it's not Kardashian's place—even as a mother to Black children married to a Black man—to tell Black people how they ought to feel. Certainly not now, and not in this climate.
Star himself may have apologized for making the “disgusting, vile, nasty and embarrassing” comments, but what has he done to truly atone? In a June interview with Allure, Star said of his apology video: “I think it's time for me to set an example for other people. I think it’s time for me to get my side out and hope that people listen to it and absorb it. If you watch it and you still hate me after that’s okay. At least I got to say my side of the story.”
In light of the events that transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, there was ample opportunity for Star to use his platform—a hefty one million followers on Twitter and five million on Instagram—to speak out against racism Yet, there is no mention of being outraged about the events in Chartlottesville on either platform—just a bunch of retweets from Star praising Kardashian for defending him. What do you call someone who can boo hoo on camera about their past racist rhetoric to save their bottom line, but can't be bothered to speak out against racism that’s actively harmul? Mighty white comes to mind.
It’s not surprising, then, to see that some have questioned the sincerity of his mea culpa. Has he truly changed? And why would Kardashian—who has spoken out about racism more in recent years—waste her precious social capital on someone with a history of public displays of racism?
Sensing the severity of her mistake, Kardashian quickly went on cleanup duty.
"Hey guys, so I really wanted to apologize to you guys and my fans for defending a situation yesterday that I really didn't know enough about,” she said. “I just feel a bit naive and I do want to really apologize for me feeling like I had the right to say ‘get over it’ in a situation that involves racism and I just don't really feel like I have the right to speak on that."
Naive, and a bit narcissistic to boot. Kardashian called out Star because he offered up a helpful tip on her products and she allowed that temporary usefulness to outweigh his history of racist insults. If she wants to forgive Star, she is free to do so. But consuming Black culture and having Black family members doesn't mean she can speak on behalf of Black people, or tell us how we ought to react to something that impacts us in a way that will never impact her.
Naïveté can sometimes get the best of us, but one can’t hide behind that flimsy excuse for long. Eventually all of us—even the reality stars—have to grow up.