Recently, Kim Kardashian-West revisited the White House to attend a listening session on the clemency process, her second trip to DC in the previous few months.
The reality star’s sudden interest in political happenings raises questions about the place of entertainers in politics and questions whether ulterior motives color whether we should support such activism.
There’s no doubt that what Kim Kardashian-West is doing benefits society. Kim’s first ‘case’, “Ms. Alice”, was an elderly woman serving out a life sentence for misdemeanor drug charges—the idyllic image of the need for prison sentencing and clemency reform. It was a win-win situation: Ms. Alice was a character the American public could rally for, without making much of a statement on broader prison sentencing legislation, or mass incarceration. For Kim, she could assert her solidarity with an elderly woman and establish a public image as an activist and empathetic benefactor.
The listening session; however, is decisively different. Instead of advocating for a specific ‘case’ or character, Kim Kardashian-West’s participation in the clemency session is a marked foray into politics, and not empathy. Though Kim has now taken on a new ‘case’, Chris Young, as she announced on the podcast “Wrongful Conviction,” the White House session hopefully takes steps towards revisions in the clemency process—something that would prevent the need for future ‘cases’.
Kim, in a tweet, said that “It started with Ms. Alice, but… learning the stories of the men and women I’ve met inside prisons I knew I couldn’t stop at just one. It’s time for REAL systemic change.” There’s no reason for me to doubt her goals—though she may not be the one driving political discourse, she is the one bringing media attention, and therefore pressure, to the issue.
I’m sure Kim has an additional reason to advocate for clemency change—namely, she may be intending to boost her own reputation or detract attention from her husband, Kanye West’s, anti-black, inflammatory outbursts and rhetoric. But she, like most other celebrities in politics, has a niche place: without someone like Kim Kardashian-West bringing the conversation to national attention, the career politicians might not get anything done.