I don’t keep up with the Kardashians. Almost everything I know about the Kardashians, I’ve learned against my will. With this in mind, I don’t necessarily despise America’s first family. I’ll admit, I find them somewhat interesting, and I’m sure even people who performatively loathe them also find them interesting. However, no matter how fascinating a public figure may be, no person is exempt from criticism.
Over the years, members of the Kardashian-Jenner family have been the subject of various criticisms, ranging from plagiarizing designs, cultural appropriation and just blatant tone-deafness in their seemingly well-intentioned activism. Other times, they’re criticized for simply having a large platform despite having no discernible talent.
In a May 2019 cover story for Vogue Magazine, Kim Kardashian expressed her desire to become a lawyer. She mentioned that she had begun an apprenticeship at a San Francisco-based law firm last summer, with the goal of taking the bar exam in 2022. While many people praised her newfound ambitions to become a lawyer, others did not relish the idea.
“[E]verytime [I] imagine [K]im [K]ardashian as a lawyer [I] laugh so fucking hard,” said one Twitter user.
Those coming to Kardashian’s defense noted her father Robert’s achievements as a lawyer, as well as her own accomplishments, with helping Alice Johnson receive clemency after being given a life sentence for drug trafficking. Since convincing President Donald Trump to pardon Johnson, Kardashian has also helped negotiate the release of Matthew Charles, and agreed to pay his rent for the next five years. Most recently, Kardashian helped free a man from Miami named Jeffrey, who had previously served 22 years of a life sentence.
Days after the unveiling of her Vogue cover story, Kardashian took to Instagram and Twitter to respond to naysayers.
“I’ve seen some comments from people who are saying it’s my privilege or my money that got me here, but that’s not the case,” Kardashian said in her post, adding that “The state bar doesn’t care who you are.”
While Kardashian seemed to mean well in her post, she failed to acknowledge the fact that her wealth and her privilege is, in fact, playing a role in her journey to become a lawyer.
Having the means to pay for law school and for tutors is a privilege. Certainly, wealth must be earned, but as the daughter of a highly accomplished lawyer, Kardashian was born into wealth. For a mother of three (soon to be four), being able to hire nannies and sitters to take care of her children while she completes the mandatory 18 hours of weekly study is also a privilege.
As someone who has acquired a large following and platform for herself, Kardashian was able to catch the attention of President Trump and secure a meeting at the White House to discuss prison reform. Said meeting ultimately led to the passing of the First Step Act, a bipartisan effort written to ease mandatory minimum drug sentences. While it’s admirable that Kardashian is using her platform to help others, the fact that her efforts receive much press coverage almost dismisses the hard work of black activists who have been fighting for decades for prison and drug law reform.
These things, in themselves, don’t necessarily make Kardashian a bad person. Privilege isn’t an inherently bad thing. As a cisgender male in America, I am aware that I am at a societal advantage over women, trans and non-binary individuals. As a light-skinned Latino, I am also aware that I am at an advantage over more ethnic-appearing Hispanic/Latinx individuals. I possess a college degree, and although it takes a lot of work to obtain a degree, it’s a privilege to be able to attend college and to have parents who can afford to pay for your education.
When you don’t acknowledge that inherent privilege has played a role in your accomplishments or your ability to redirect your career path, your privilege becomes potentially problematic. While nobody is legally obligated to use their assets and resources to help others, it’s dismissive and irresponsible to tell others that if they aren’t as fortunate as you that they aren’t working hard enough.
There are black activists who, for years, have been working hard to help black people who have been betrayed by the U.S. Criminal Justice System. The fact that Kardashian was able to decide that she wanted to change her career path is demonstrative of privilege.
With all of this in mind, I admit, I do believe Kim Kardashian has the potential to be a great lawyer. Her track record has proven that she has the means, the resources and the skills to help imprisoned people receive clemency and commutation. However, at some point, she has to acknowledge that if she didn’t possess her wealth, her platform and her resources, she probably would not have been able to accomplish her newfound goals as easily.