Never in a million years did I think I would write the following sentence: Kim Kardashian West has helped secure a commuted sentence for Alice Johnson after meeting with President Donald Trump to lobby for prison reform.
Johnson was serving a life sentence for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense, and now has a second chance at life. West met with President Trump last week in an effort to enact prison reform. Securing a commuted sentence for Johnson was part of their discussion.
After it was announced that West was meeting with the president, much of the commentary on both Right and Left centered on “celebrity worship” and whether it was appropriate for the president to spend his time meeting with West. The real conversation, however, was about an American meeting with the pinnacle of American leadership in an attempt to bring about positive change for our nation. As evidenced Wednesday, in the Trump administration change happens swiftly.
I hope other celebrities, namely athletes like protesting football players and basketball star Lebron James, pay very close attention here, because Kardashian just secured a political victory that should embarrass them into either silence or action.
The Eagles Could Learn a Few Things, Too
The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles were embroiled in controversy this week after reducing to just ten the number of players coming for an official White House visit, prompting the president to cancel the visit altogether, as he didn’t want their fans to be disappointed. The players don’t like President Trump’s policies and didn’t want to visit the White House.
Then, yesterday, in commenting on the cancellation, James reportedly made a statement about this year’s NBA championship, suggesting that regardless of who wins, America shouldn’t expect an NBA team to visit the White House either. He said, “I know no matter who wins this series no one wants the invite anyway, so it won’t be Golden State or Cleveland going.”
Aside from his appalling arrogance in thinking he speaks for all players, James has a lesson to learn from West. While James might be a star basketball player and one of the best players in history, he is no leader. He may drive his team to victories on the court, but James is no king off the court. He won’t be leading the people he pretends to represent anywhere other than backwards, in terms of social justice.
This point was summed up on Twitter today by Fox News Political Analyst Gianno Caldwell: “Kim Kardashian has highlighted one of the greatest failures of the black community. Instead of some of our highest profile black leaders meeting with the President about criminal justice reform or clemency for Alice Johnson, most refuse to meet thereby disenfranchising us all.”
Caldwell couldn’t be more correct. Star athletes pushing an agenda for social justice are failing by doing little (if not nothing) to bring results in the communities about which they supposedly care.
It’s Not Leadership to Stamp Your Feet
Athletes like James have an incredible platform and opportunities that the average person will never have. When you have access to halls of power so great that with a single phone call you could be in the Oval Office having a discussion with the president of the United States, and you willingly abdicate that responsibility to stand up for those you say are in need, then you disqualify yourself from being able to be taken seriously as a leader of a social movement.
Black Americans have suffered because we get behind these fake messiahs and false prophets and take their incredibly stupid positions seriously. These people are not leaders.
Leadership means having the tough conversations. Leadership means meetings and interactions with people who have the power to bring about the change you want to see in the world. Leadership is putting your own pride aside for the common good.
Leadership is not throwing a temper tantrum in front of a global television audience while taking no meaningful action to advance your cause. Leadership means that when you have a national issue you claim you want addressed, and the president offers you a meeting, you accept.
Kim K’s Model Is the Way to Win
Kardashian just served up a strong lesson in diplomacy. She was never a huge Trump fan. She hasn’t been known for championing any conservative positions. But, to her credit, she’s definitively shown herself, against the expectations of many, to be a passionate and driven woman in fighting to have a woman freed whom she believed was the recipient of real injustice.
She didn’t go on television and lecture America with amorphous, disrespectful platitudes about how unfair our criminal justice system is. She didn’t offend a large part of the country, along with the legacies of fallen soldiers who literally died to secure our rights, including the right of these athletes to protest the very flag those soldiers died for.
West put some skin in the game, did research, and was committed to bringing about the change she wanted to see in the world. She used her fame, money, and access for more than a bullhorn, and now a real victim will be spared further suffering because of those actions.
That is leadership. And it’s not because she’s a celebrity, it’s because she did the work and got results. This is the great lesson that star athletes and all of us in the black community need to learn: put up or shut up.
If you believe that there is an injustice, then take the time and address it in the proper forum. And if you have the opportunity to sit across from the most powerful person on earth and make him listen to you and you decline, then you’re just a joke.