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Thursday, April 15, 2021

What Cosmopolitan’s Kardashian Cover Says About Black Erasure in America

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In the height of predominantly conservative presidential election campaigns and a regressive racial climate in the United States, the Kardashians have been coined “America’s First Family” by Cosmopolitan on the magazine’s November cover. This is no coincidence.

The full story hasn’t been released yet so perhaps the term is describing the Kardashians as the “first family” of social media, appropriation or reality television in America. These are presumptions and hypothetical alternatives that aren’t very likely to be true with the caveat that this is a headline published by the same magazine that labeled the lipstick colors worn by all black women “R.I.P” and all of the ones on mostly white women “Hello Gorgeous.” After readers took to Twitter to express their outrage at the racism in the article, Cosmo apologized to black supermodel Joan Smalls who was used in the photographs for the piece.

A debate about the sincerity of the apology doesn’t hold much weight as the photos already made it clear that the beauty images associated with white women were considered the right standard that the rest of us should follow.

Six months later, they’ve done something similar for next month’s cover which features the Kardashian women perched in a photo that precedes an exclusive 16 page spread somewhere the near the middle of the magazine. In their own right, they are a close family of savvy entrepreneurs who’ve found a way to turn shame into fame after their older sister Kim Kardashian found the spotlight following the leak of her viral sex tape. They are the embodiment of putting the team on.

But as they sit resting on butt implants, serving sultry glares and lavish smiles with surgically injected pursed lips, the erasure of America’s actual first and black family is very clear. We’ve seen aspiring politician Donald Trump call President Obama a bad example for the fed up black youth who rioted in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray. Reporters in the past have refused to use his official title as President and loosely called him by his last name. Daughters Sasha,14, and Malia Obama, 16, were harshly criticized and told to have “a little more class” at the fault of what GOP aide Elizabeth Lauten called a lack of good parental role models. First Lady Michelle Obama was labeled “angry” for her outspokenness and empathy towards black children who like herself have struggled with feeling included in spaces majorly occupied by white people.

In the midst of being under the scrutinous microscope of being the nation’s leading family, members of the Obamas have landed on a range of magazine covers includingPeopleEssenceTIMEVogue and Ebony.

But where does a magazine famous for beauty and sex tips stand in throwing presidential shade? Putting the Kardashians on the cover is a jab of many that suggests that there is some other more glamorous and whiter option to the black family seated at the top of the nation. In between the lines of the glossy pages touched with the Kardashian spell, the Obamas have been blurred out for a family that has not used their stan-factor to offer any substantial social impact in this country. Despite Cosmopolitan’s intended meaning of the term, at face value its prestige means a great deal considering that it’s printed on the a mainstream publication.

As the Kardashians have allowed their most vulnerable and unrelated moments to play out in front of cameras, many of us have been sucked into the sensationalized rapture of their dysfunction. With no discredit to both their individual and collective accomplishments, much of their influence is rooted in the access they’ve gained due to their growing obsessions with image and associations with one another. The greatness of the Kardashians does not lie in overcoming insurmountable odds to hold rank or position. That is something that the Obamas continuously work for and are left with no choice but to defend because despite outside attempts to ignore them in a room where they are rightfully seated, they are America’s First Family.

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