In case you didn’t hear, Kim Kardashian West was robbed at gunpoint in her hotel room in Paris earlier this October. Several masked men dressed as police broke into the star’s hotel room at the No Address Hotel, where she was later bound and gagged as the intruders stole $10 million worth of jewelry.
Yet what was the most shocking was the public’s reaction to the news. Many took to Twitter to criticize Kardashian for having such a frivolous lifestyle, as if she was begging to get robbed. Some tweets commented on the fact that she didn’t Snapchat the whole thing, suggested that being robbed was a PR stunt, or joked about the time she lost her $75,000 diamond earrings in the ocean. To many people, Kim Kardashian being held at gunpoint and bound up as masked men stole millions of dollars’ worth of her own possessions is a joke. Many cited her wealth and fame as reason enough to feel no empathy for her, even blaming her for owning such things.
But what many people seem to forget is that Kim Kardashian West is a mother to two children, a wife, a sister, an aunt and a daughter. She is a person with actual relationships and feelings, despite how ridiculous she is on TV. During the robbery, she reportedly begged the robbers to keep her alive because she has babies at home. North West, her daughter, is only three years old, and Saint West, her son, is less than a year old. Those babies could have lost their mother that night, but to the rest of the world, it was just a joke.
But are people only hiding behind their moral opposition to Kim Kardashian’s lavish lifestyle, or is it deeper than that? If these people were so concerned about the injustice of wealth, more people would be upset about the estimated 500,000 homeless Americans on the street. When a homeless citizen is murdered, nobody talks about it. The news — even on a local level — doesn’t report about the continuous injustices enacted on the impoverished. That’s because the news only reports what their audience wants to know about. In other words, nobody really cares about the crimes enacted upon the homeless. They do care about how sheer of a dress Kim Kardashian wore last night, or what she named her newest baby, or what she has to say about Taylor Swift, because each of those topics received media attention for weeks at a time. Those criticizing Kim K on Twitter probably also follow Kim K on Twitter. The public made a mockery out of a traumatic experience, claiming that they don’t care about the rich. But these same people are also not making an effort to care about the poor either.
There’s a long history of mainstream culture criticizing how the rich and famous live, mostly citing the wealthy’s lack of concern for those of a lesser station. Yet many of the wealthiest people alive, including celebrities, donate hundreds of thousands each year to charities. And yes, there are many middle-class Americans that work tirelessly helping out others less fortunate than them, and they should be commended. However, the ones that are being critical of the top 1% for how they treat the rest of the 99% don’t do much on their own part to help those with less.
What these people are really demonstrating when they turned Kim K’s robbery into a joke was a lack of empathy. They lack empathy for everyone that isn’t of a similar socioeconomic status. They think it’s okay to joke about a situation in which a woman could have died, leaving behind two children and an entire family. They victim-blamed a woman that was robbed under the argument that she shouldn’t have things that people would want to rob—as if they would tell their own family that it’s their fault for having a car that got stolen. In other words, we live in a society that would rather joke about trauma than extend sympathy, and that is the real tragedy.
Contact Arianna Lombard at ariannal ‘at’ stanford.edu.