It seems to be the prerogative of the wealthy to remind us plebeians why the phrase, “Eat the rich,” exists.
And therein lies the premise of the latest Kardashian–Jenner debacle. Kim Kardashian West, who turned 40 years old last week, posted a carousel of birthday photos of her and her family having a fête à la Marie Antoinette on an undisclosed beach, with face-masked workers just afterthoughts in the background.
“For my birthday this year, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it than with some of the people who have helped shaped me into the woman I am today,” she wrote in the caption. “Before COVID, I don’t think any of us truly appreciated what a simple luxury it was to be able to travel and be together with family and friends in a safe environment. After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time. We danced, rode bikes, swam near whales, kayaked, watched a movie on the beach and so much more. I realize that for most people, this is something that is so far out of reach right now, so in moments like these, I am humbly reminded of how privileged my life is. #thisis40”
The theatrical display of her lack of self-awareness and humility, and the repulsive excess of wealth immediately incurred the wrath of those who saw it. And, of course, it would: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has skyrocketed the rate of unemployment to an all-time high, as many as 150 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2021, more than 200,000 people have been killed by the virus in the United States alone, and uprisings against anti-Blackness and systemic inequality continue to break out across the globe. All this to say, Kardashian West’s affluence may not fix all these problems, but it certainly doesn’t help. Its very existence, in fact, speaks to broader issues of economic inequality—a dynamic that typically sees certain echelons of society attaining glamor and luxury at the expense of working people.
Of course, the Kardashian–Jenner clan are peddlers of outrage too. As they bask in the fumes of their latest scandal, I’m hoping that the workers who made her 40th birthday celebration possible were—at the very least—tipped well.
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