How the Kardashians exploit racial bias for profit By Sally Kohn November 18 Sally Kohn is an essayist and a CNN political commentator.Other topics touched upon include Ferguson and the KKK.
As you surely know, last week Kim Kardashian posed — naked — on the pages of Paper Magazine. The stated goal? #BreakTheInternet.
Most cultural critics rolled their eyes and cried stunt. But the Kardashians aren’t just trashy. They’re dangerous—actively exploiting and reinforcing racial and gender biases that bite us in the ass.
Kim Kardashian’s picture is an almost exact replica of a 1976 portrait, also shot by photographer Jean-Paul Goude. The original version features Carolina Beaumont, who is black. The portrait was published in Goude’s book called, ahem, “Jungle Fever.”
Both images harken back to even more offensive representations of black women, particularly of Saartjie Baartman — the “Hottentot Venus” — a black woman with a large rear end who was violently exploited as a sexual object in a traveling “freak show” during the slave trade era.
For centuries since (and likely before) black women and their bodies have been smeared by stereotypes of hyper-sexuality simultaneously displayed and denigrated, their individuality and self-determination suppressed by the whims of the white male gaze. Goude, a white man, embodies this exploitative obsession. “Blacks are the premise of my work,” he said in 1979. “I have jungle fever.”As Yomi Adegoke wrote in the Guardian in September, non-black women have a history of appropriating black women’s bodies and culture.
* Correction: This article has been amended because it’s unclear whether Kardashian identifies as a woman of color.I have no idea what that means.Did Ms. Kohn say Ms. Kardashian was a woman of color and then have to retract it? Or vice-versa?Does it matter? Presumably it’s embarrassing to Ms. Kohn to get a premise of her argument factually wrong, but it seems unfair to focus on that because no doubt she would have written virtually the same article no matter what the facts.It would be fun to sponsor a computer program that would generate this kind of feminist prose at random. Just ask a woman to list a few people she hates, and, voila, 800 words of Washington Post-quality clickbait! The only difficulty would be in convincing your Gender Oppressive White Alpha Male Brogrammer, Wally, to leave out all the code that he would automatically want to put in to check for logical consistency.As for Kim Kardashian, her mother Kris Houghton Kardashian Jenner is of pretty standard American ancestry: English, Scottish, French, German and Dutch. Her late father Robert Kardashian, the lawyer from whose house O.J. Simpson set off on his White Bronco ride toward the Mexican border, is usually said to be of Armenian descent.As I’ve mentioned before, the notion that Armenians are not white appears to be growing in the 21st Century as part of the Flight from White. In contrast, back when Republican George Deukmejian edged Democrat Tom Bradley in the 1982 California gubernatorial election, it was always seen as White Guy Beats Black Guy.After looking into it, Robert Kardashian’s ancestors appear to be less indigenous Armenians than members of a dissenting Russian sect called the Molokans who were exiled to the Caucasus. Wikipedia explains:
Molokans (Russian: ???????? for “milk-drinkers”) are members of a Christian sect that evolved from “Spiritual Christian” Russian peasants who refused to obey the Russian Orthodox Church. Molokan practice was first sanctioned by the Nestorian Church in the 11th century in order to accommodate the conversion of some 200,000 Kerait Tatars, who lived on meat and milk, to Nestorian Christianity. …It’s unclear from what little I’ve read whether modern Molokans are direct descendants of these Tatars who were found at various times over thousands of miles of Eastern Europe and Western Asia or whether they later emerged among random Russians in a sort of Orthodox equivalent of the Protestant reformation.
During the early 20th century under his fellowship, about 2,000 Molokans (mostly of the Jumpers and Leapers Sect) left for the United States and settled in the Los Angeles area near the area of Boyle Heights, and some other parts of the West Coast and Canada. …Some Molokans adhere to the Old Testament kosher dietary laws and do not eat pork, shellfish, or other “unclean” foods. Some refuse to serve on juries or file lawsuits against fellow church members. Church services are conducted predominantly in the Russian language, men and women sit apart, and services are usually quite active – comparable to Pentecostal activities. Molokan families encourage endogamy.Not really working in this case.In any case, Ms. Kardashian ought to be honored as an exemplar of the reigning social constructionism ideology, since she seems to be constructed mostly of Silicone and PhotoShop.