As many Kardashian fans probably know, Kim Kardashian recently faced backlash after her daughter, North, was spotted with her naturally curly hair straightened. The photos, which were from North’s fifth birthday party and posted on Kim’s social media on June 3rd (with more added later during a family trip to New York City), quickly received criticism from a number of fans.
Some followers felt that Kardashian — a white woman — was white-washing her daughter’s natural hair, and perhaps teaching her to embrace a white standard of beauty (North’s dad, Kanye West, is of course black).
This also came in the wake of Kim receiving criticism for wearing braids to the June 18th MTV Movie & TV Awards (Kim came under backlash this past January for wearing traditional fulani braids, a traditional black hairstyle, while crediting them to white actress Bo Derek). Many felt that the most recent look proved Kim hadn’t learned anything about cultural sensitivity from the previous incident (and others before).
However, Kim explained both North’s straightened hair and her personal choice to wear braids on the red carpet in a recent interview.
Kim also explained why she chose to wear braids herself to the awards show, noting that North wanted to get braids, and wanted her mom to match.
“I’m not tone deaf to where I don’t get it,” she concluded.
Make no mistake: These are nuanced and complicated issues to navigate as a parent, and we have no way of knowing how Kim approaches race and identity with her young children. But we also know that cultural appropriation is pervasive among celebrities, who deem certain pieces of marginalized cultures as “cool” and acceptable, and co-opt those pieces as their own for personal gain. Mothering a mixed child is obviously complex, and while Kim is doing the best she can, it’s good to remain aware that these issues affect the people who are exposed to her media presence but cannot benefit from it.
The Kardashians have an incredibly large platform and thus the power to effect a real difference when it comes to leading by example. We hope they always try their best to use that influence well.