Dear Kim and Kanye, Stop F**king With Us: On Cultural Appropriation and the Commodification of Black Pain

Max S. Gordon
26 min readDec 22, 2019

by Max S. Gordon

Messin’ round with the best of them
Digressing with the rest of them,
He’s a stranger.
But his mama still knows his name.

“Sylvester”, Sly & The Family Stone


The day after it was announced that the president of the United States had been impeached, I awoke to an image of Kim Kardashian West dressed in blackface.

Already a backlash had started against her on social media. Some people were mad, while others defended her. It’s hard to create a real backlash against The Kardashian Wests, of course, because even when you are angry at them, or critical — or sometimes even inspired — it all feeds the same machine. Kim and Kanye remain true to the adage “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” As long as we are talking about them, they win. And when they win, they make money.

Because they appear to be shameless to the core, they can’t be censured in traditional ways. To be ashamed requires a line one doesn’t cross, a relationship to the sacred. A memory of a painful past, a watchful ancestral presence. You have to be able to say to yourself, “I know I always want more fame and money, but I think even that is going a little too far.”

But when you are as self-mesmerized as Kim and Kanye are, you are able to convince yourself that you created yourself: you are here to make history, not answer to it. Self-made and rich and powerful, you are accountable to no one. At its core, it’s a dangerous, lonely place to be, especially when you are a black artist in America — a free-floating and untethered existence. The tag-line for the film 1970 Love Story was “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” But that’s not love, that’s whiteness. Or being a superstar in America.

You convince yourself that your money gives you the power of rich white men who have historically treated the world like their playground or toilet, and you call that success. For the black man or woman who allows themselves to be lulled into thinking they are white because they are famous or have a few coins, the…

Max S. Gordon

Max S. Gordon is a writer and activist. His work has appeared in on-line and print magazines in the U.S. and internationally. Follow Max on twitter:@maxgordon19