To the shock of many, on late Sunday, reality television star Kim Kardashian-West was robbed at gunpoint of jewelry worth an estimated $10 million. Although the investigation is ongoing, we know that Kardashian-West was alone in her Paris apartment when two men tied her up and gagged her, then fled with three other accomplices.
At the time of the robbery, her husband, Kanye West, was performing in Queens before he abruptly walked off the stage upon hearing the news. It didn’t take long before social media got wind of the shocking story and accused the reality star of staging a publicity stunt. Others simply had no sympathy for the selfie-taking pop culture diva whatsoever.
While one can understand the hesitation people feel when hearing anything related to the Kardashians, her reported robbery is no laughing matter.
Celebrities aren’t necessarily strangers to fabricating details of robbery incidents. This past summer, Ryan Lochte created an elaborate story of him being robbed in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympics. It was later discovered that he and his teammates trashed a local gas station and used their drunken white privilege in an attempt to escape consequences. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that white people, especially celebrities, construct false stories to evade punishment or, oddly enough, to seek attention, because society will almost always give them what they want.
But there is no comic relief in Kardashian-West’s alleged robbery, no matter how much one may dislike her. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the many tweets making light of her terrifying encounter with the armed men. One tweet, in particular, found much joy in hearing about the robbery: “Kim Kardashian robbed at gunpoint in Paris… Finally, some good news on a Monday.”
Admittedly, the Kardashian family has earned many hard eye rolls for statements and actions made over the years, like in 2014 when Kardashian-West suddenly remembered that racism existed after giving birth to daughter North West. Then there was the time Khloe Kardashian posted an image on Instagram of her and her sisters (which she quickly removed) noting “the only KKK to let black guys in?” It’s probably safe to say that anyone with the initials “KKK” should stay away from racialized jokes, particularly when it’s easy to end up on the butt of them.
Not to mention Kardashian-West’s name alone conjures up extremely layered feelings about non-black women who almost exclusively date black men and are praised by said men (and the masses) for their appropriation of black women. Because of her and her family’s attention-seeking history, it is understandable the pause many have regarding Sunday night’s violent attack.
That aside, people are wrongly placing blame on Kardashian-West, which is ironic in this day and age when so many advocates are pushing back on ideas of victim blaming.
As a person who has been robbed at gunpoint, I know exactly how Kardashian-West must have felt.
In 2013, while working late at the Center for American Progress (CAP), I was robbed at gunpoint in Washington, D.C. The next couple years were filled with moving expenses, police investigations, grand jury hearings, criminal trial(s) and trying not to make eye contact with my attacker. What I can undoubtedly say about that experience is that it wasn’t funny, and the trauma takes a toll on your mental, emotional and physical well-being.
While that night may be over, my fear of walking alone at night hasn’t ended. Robbery isn’t a violent crime that occurs for one moment in time. It takes over part of a lived experience, because that’s part of its purpose: to inflict fear.
It also doesn’t escape me that many women who are robbed are also susceptible to rape and sexual assault.
There are questions that remain unanswered from Kardashian’s Paris robbery, including why Kardashian-West was alone that night and why she was carrying around such valuable merchandise (hint: because she can). However, if we find ourselves railing over these minor details as opposed to showing some empathy, then we have already begun from a victim-blaming place.
While it’s perfectly acceptable to bemoan our celebrity-obsessed culture, it isn’t appropriate to wish ill on someone who deserves to exist without fear that they will be robbed or worse.
It’s quite rare that anyone would defend the Kardashian clan (North and Saint West get passes) — as they often come off as disingenuous and attention-seeking. This has become a common, very calculated trend of the family over the past decade. It’s clear that anything that occurs in their private life will be made public, and that’s exactly what they want.
But wrong is wrong. Robbery isn’t a laughing matter — even when it comes to celebrities who aren’t our favorite cup of tea.
Preston Mitchum is a Washington, DC-based writer, activist and policy nerd. He has written for the Atlantic, The Root, Ebony.com, Huffington Post, Hello Beautiful and Think Progress. Follow him on Twitter here to see just how much he appreciates intersectionality.