Over the weekend, Khloé Kardashian posted on Instagram about a T-shirt that seemed, at first glance, forgivably mawkish. It encouraged her followers to “love thy neighbor” and listed neighbours of differing levels of disenfranchisement: “Thy black neighbor. Thy gay neighbor. Thy Jewish neighbor,” and so on. The penultimate line read: “Thy racist neighbor.”
The internet, unsurprisingly, lost it. It can easily be inferred from the T-shirt that “racist” is a neutral, even misunderstood, status: it suggests that, like being gay or black, it is something you are born with that the world unfairly vilifies. In Kardashian’s mind, a racist’s struggle is comparable to that of a homeless person or an addict (who were also offered a serving of love, as opposed to anything substantial). Her endorsement of that message suggests she sees “racist” as an identity – and a marginalised one at that. This is the logical conclusion of a dangerous rhetoric that posits the intolerant as victims of a system that they seek actively to uphold.
Kardashian’s ludicrous faux pas puts to bed the myth that we can befriend our way to a more just world. Although she is a mother to a biracial child, with a number of black ex-beaus (including the basketball players Lamar Odom and Tristan Thompson, the latter of whom is her daughter’s father) and a black best friend (Malika Haqq), it seems her proximity to blackness has not cured her myopia.
Khloe Kardashian is facing backlash for posting a "Love Thy Neighbor" shirt that includes "Thy Racist Neighbor" on her Instagram story:— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) March 16, 2019
"Love is the only cure" pic.twitter.com/KnVqFCmH6a
Of course, in the minds of many, colour-blindness is a type of kindness. Such people believe that acknowledging racism does more harm than racism itself – which is only true if you consider that white fragility is being harmed. Coddling the complicit is hardly new, of course. Colour-blindness allows liberals to lay claim to “wokeness” without doing the work required to undermine white supremacy: how can it even exist if “we’re all just humans, man”?
The Kardashians’ babies, besties and boyfriends continue to be human shields against accusations of racism laid at the door of this ever-ignorant family. They devour black culture and spit out the bits that don’t sit well with them – donning cornrows, but acting uncharacteristically demure when it comes to engaging with anti-racist discourse. Khloé Kardashian was accused last year of editing her daughter’s skin colour in pictures to make it appear lighter, a few months after she had hit back at cruel remarks made online about the toddler’s complexion. It is hard to be colour-blind in this society of racists that Kardashian seeks to “love” when these people actively hate others – her daughter included, whether she chooses to see it or not.
Would Kardashian have promoted the same T-shirt had it pleaded to love “thy sexist neighbor” or “thy homophobic neighbor”? Probably not. Thanks to Kardashian and her ilk, racism is something that continues to be touted as a cry for help from those who believe their bigotry is unfairly censored. These bigots believe it is their freedom of speech being quashed – making them the ones being oppressed, rather than the oppressors.