On May 31, reality TV star Kim Kardashian-West met with Donald Trump in the Oval Office to talk about prison reform.
Kardashian-West wanted a presidential pardon for Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother serving a life sentence, without parole, for a drug crime. Johnson went to prison more than 20 years ago after getting involved in a cocaine ring.
In a viral interview, Johnson told Mic that her son had died, she had become divorced, and she desperately needed money in order to sustain a life.
“I couldn’t find a job fast enough to support my family… I felt like a failure,” she told Mic.
Kardashian-West was exposed to the video and was immediately moved by it. She tweeted in response to the video, “this is so unfair.” She was determined to get Johnson out of prison and as a result of Kardashian-West’s continuous efforts, Johnson is expected to be released from prison soon.
“Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades. Despite receiving a life sentence, Alice worked hard to rehabilitate herself in prison, and act as a mentor to her fellow inmates,” the White House said in a statement, according to CNN.
Trump heard out Kardashian-West and had a meeting with her in the Oval Office. He later tweeted out a photo of the two of them, which immediately gained mass media attention and became a viral joke.
The New York Post released an image with not one, but two references to Kardashian-West’s body on it’s Thursday cover. The image was then retweeted thousands of times, and Kardashian-West was turned into a viral laughing stock.
People were quick to judge Kardashian-West. She’s a reality star. What could she possibly know about prison reform? But then again, Trump too is a reality star. Why is the world so quick to pounce on Kardashian-West, but Trump gains support?
The world’s reaction to this meeting is an expression of the way our society thinks about male and female leadership. Celebrities draw attention to specific causes all the time. So why is this different?
The main objective of Kardashian-West’s meeting with Trump is her lack of education on prison reform. It is true that she has not been through the prison system, but she, along with anyone else fighting for justice, is still qualified to fight for someone’s right to freedom.
Prison reform advocates are outraged by Kardashian-West’s approach because they feel that she is not qualified or educated enough about the topic to be meeting with Trump and his administration. One user tweeted that the administration should be meeting with people who have either been in the system or have studied it closely.
Kardashian-West may not be the most qualified prison reform advocate, but she did see the inhumanity of the life sentence Johnson received for a nonviolent first offense. Would it have been better for her to step down and allow Johnson to live out the rest of her term in prison?
Kardashian-West has succeeded in getting Johnson commuted, but will she continue to advocate for others who are affected by the corrupt prison system? We may not know her long-term plans for prison reform, or if she has any, but what we do know is that she has used her platform to win justice for Johnson, which means one less person is suffering in the system.
Kardashian-West’s work may or may not be long lasting, but I believe that her work in helping Johnson, is noble and she is doing more than many of us can say that we do. I think that we should acknowledge the work she has done, and thank her for using her platform to accomplish positive change. She is allowed and deserves the credit for helping a human being.