Kim Kardashian Addresses Blackface Accusations, But There's Still Something Really Wrong Here

June 21st 2017

Kyle Fitzpatrick

The Kardashians aren't strangers to cultural controversy.

Whether it’s ripping off minority designers or misunderstanding feminism, the family frequently finds themselves in uncomfortable situations related to their handling of culturally sensitive subjects.

Kim Kardashian is the latest of the bunch to screw up as a result of her appearing to darken her skin to sell beauty products, which she later apologized for posting.

To promote her cosmetics line, KKW Beauty collection, Kardashian posted the following image to her Twitter page.

The image displays the generally famous-for-being-famous person showing off a contouring and highlighting product, with her skin looking remarkably darker than usual.

In response, fans and critics have called Kardashian out for painting herself in makeup akin to blackface. Yet, the subject has divided many since some are confused about what blackface is or isn't in 2017.

Many responded to the photo with accusations that Kardashian was donning blackface.

Others cried wolf, saying that Kardashian’s image was fine and that people are being too sensitive.

Some made excuses, pointing towards her possibly using a mixture of tanning, makeup, Photoshop, and more as the issue.

In speaking with the New York Times, Kardashian acknowledges that she screwed up but doesn’t seem to fully grasp the issue of blackface, likening the problem to a confusion of products and editing. Also, new promo photos were released Wednesday of her looking just as dark.

“I was really tan when we shot the images, and it might be that the contrast was off,” she told New York Times. “But I showed the image to many people, to many in the business. No one brought that to our attention. No one mentioned it.”

While even Kardashian might be confused on the matter, the photos are cultural appropriation and — while not black paint — can even be interpreted as a form of blackface.

Cultural appropriation, by definition, is “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.”

The act is seen as a means for those with more power or privilege to co-opt a different identity for further advancement. Acts of cultural appropriation reduce groups of people and their lives to costumes that non-persons of color can don to tap into stereotypes for fun

Blackface — the darkening of white skin to appear darker or black — has roots in the 1820s where white performers would paint themselves black to mock persons of color as a means to support slavery. This is why the recurrence of blackface in contemporary society is a problem: it enforces stereotypes by celebrating divisions enrooted in slavery, that black bodies or bodies of color are as disposable as skin coloring.

The subject of tanning-as-blackface has recurred for years and, as ATTN: reported months ago, darkening makeup serves the same purpose in the degradation of black bodies.

This happens over and over, again, from advertisements that wipe away black skin to assert that “whiteness makes you win” to makeup brands that suggest it is fine for white people to be black for a moment than for black people to be black their entire lives.

Kardashian says she has learned from this problem but, like her fans and sisters, seem to be more confused than understanding of the matter.

“I have the utmost respect for why people might feel the way they did,” she added. “We saw the problem, and we adapted and changed right away. Definitely I have learned from it.”

Time will tell if Kardashian — like the rest of her family — have indeed learned anything from this, at all.