Six years ago, Kylie and Kendall Jenner starred in a racist little Vine video that I’m convinced everyone forgot about except me. In 2015, Kylie and Kendall Jenner got in on the Vine craze. The now-defunct short-form video app was already a cultural landmark and the Jenner sisters were well on their way to becoming celebrities in their own right, not just as the youngest Kardashians. Kendall was modeling while Kylie was building an empire driven entirely by her brand new face and brand new lips. By the end of the year, Kylie was the owner of two multi-million dollar homes and her own cosmetics company.
All the while, she was still posting the kind of content on Vine that any teenager would, while her Instagram was reserved for her more glamorous photos.
In April 2015, Kylie and Kendall starred in a comedic little skit featuring Justin Bieber and a few Vine stars. The premise was simple: A cadre of men present themselves before the Jenners and each attempted to attract their attention. Bieber’s appearance was set to country music, followed by former Vine stars Rudy Mancuso accompanied by Latin guitar strumming, KingBach with generic hip hop beats, and then Jerry Purpdrank, set to “Grab My Gun” by Notorious B.I.G. While Bieber is met with blank stares from the girls, their interest deepens with each potential suitor, as does their suitors’ skin tone. When they’re presented with Jerry Purpdrank, the token dark-skinned Black man, the Jenner sisters are so overwhelmed with lust that they lunge at him like hungry dogs.
It only took a six-second video to summarize the problem so many observers have had with the Kardashian-Jenner clan ever since they became household names: the ease in which they exploited Blackness, lampooned Black people, borrowed from Black-American culture only to mock and trivialize it when it became convenient. Examples abound. There’s Khloe Kardashian re-posting a photo of her and her sisters wearing all white with the caption “the only KKK to ever let black men in;” Kylie flaunting cornrows; Kim Kardashian flaunting cornrows (which she hilariously called “Bo Derek braids”); Kylie praising Kim for teaching her “how to turn from good girl to ghetto;” Kim’s Paper cover, which was an homage to Jean-Paul Goude’s portrait of Carolina Beaumont, a Black model whose body Goude fetishized and molded as if she was Sarah Baartman. Not to mention Kim and Kylie and Khloe, in particular, literally transforming their bodies—plumped lips, wider hips, larger bottoms, darker skin—to accommodate features that have largely been associated with Black women.
If the Vine was some kind of bit or a parody making fun of their family’s reputation, it certainly wasn’t made clear.
Kylie was 17 years old when this video was filmed. Teenagers are idiots. But given how often her sisters were accused of fetishizing Black people and culture, I imagined that Kylie would at least hesitate before participating in this nonsense. And if not her, then maybe the adults who rounded out the video (KingBach was 26!). Why these Black men, in particular, allowed themselves to become race fodder, I don’t know, and I don’t really want to know. But I suppose the opportunity to create some content with some of the most famous people on the planet was too hard to pass up.
I don’t lose sleep over the fact that the Jenner sisters, Justin Bieber, and some random Vine dudes made a racist six-second-long video six years ago that pushes the trope of the dangerous Black male and the white women who fetishize him. But maybe this reveals an overall fatigue in discussing Kardashian-Jenner racism. The cultural appropriation wars were an exhausting era of the internet that don’t need a revamp. Kylie could post a photo of herself wearing a dashiki on Instagram right now and I wouldn’t give a shit; I’d snicker, ask the group chat “LOL did you see this shit?” and keep it moving. The racist shenanigans and cosplay these women regularly dabbled in became so commonplace that they weren’t really worth commenting on anymore.
While Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the show that made the Kardashian-Jenners a household name is coming to an end, their presence and influence aren’t going anywhere—and neither are their ham-handed approaches to race. I’ll admit, they don’t embarrass themselves on this front as much as they used to (did the yelling work after all?), but even if they did... it’s 2021. We’ve exhausted enough race discourse with this family to last a lifetime. What they do now is up to them: Out of the five sisters, three of them are the mothers to Black children (not to mention Rob Kardashian, whose child with Blac Chyna is also Black).
Maybe Kylie and Kendall look back at this and—like me—cringe. Or maybe they don’t give a shit. But I’ll certainly never forget these six seconds of bullshit.