I have to admit that while I’ve certainly heard of Kim Kardashian, I really didn’t know much about her.
My perception was that she was simply a young woman who craved the spotlight and would do whatever she could to get noticed. And she is certainly good at it; she has hundreds of millions of followers on social media and is worth an estimated $350 million.
I was skeptical when I read about her advocacy efforts on behalf of Alice Marie Johnson, a woman who received a life sentence for a first-time drug offense. The commutation of Johnson’s life sentence was granted by President Trump in June 2018, partly due to Kardashian’s efforts.
Kardashian was also instrumental, along with Van Jones and Jared Kushner, in persuading President Trump to support the First Step Act, which enacted major reforms in the US prison system. Van Jones later stated that without her, the act would have never passed since it would not have received the president’s support. It was later passed by a great majority in the US Senate.
Not knowing much about these efforts, I assumed they were just another way for Kardashian to stay in the spotlight.
But I’m beginning to rethink things.
I just read a story about how Kardashian spent two hours at San Quentin prison visiting 61-year old Kevin Cooper, who was convicted of murder in 1983 and has been on death row ever since. Cooper has maintained his innocence all along. When Kardashian heard about the case, she asked Governor Brown to look into Cooper’s case, which he has done. Additional DNA tests were performed, and the results are pending.
Kardashian has also helped to gain the freedom of 17 prisoners over the past few months.
Collectively, all of these advocacy efforts start to paint a picture of someone who is deeply committed to these causes.
Many people view celebrities as role models, so why not be a good one?
I admire when celebrities use their fame to bring awareness to causes they are passionate about. Their fame gives them a platform to get others interested in their such causes; to me that’s a better use of fame than acting as a spokesperson for a company so the company can sell more of its product. And I feel that way even if the social cause is not one I might agree with. I like when people take a stand on an issue and can support their view with reasonable arguments.
And while initially I thought Kardashian was doing all of this as a publicity stunt, I no longer believe so.
First, she has little to gain from such efforts, particularly when does a lot of this work behind the scenes. I was not aware of much of this work by Kardashian, which would seem to indicate she is not seeking publicity. I think it would have been very easy to let the world know about all of this if she wanted to.
And secondly, the sheer amount of work she has done related to prison reform seems to indicate that she is truly passionate about the issue and wants to make a difference.
So I applaud Kardashian’s work on prison and sentencing reform, and wish her the best moving forward.
There’s certainly lots of work to be done, and having someone like Kardashian lead the way in terms of raising awareness can only help.
*image from PageSix