Why we should stop celebrating Kylie Jenner

Thursday, July 19, 2018
Chicago Sun Times

“Self-made” further implies Jenner received no help and is successful by pluck and vision alone. We keep spinning these American tales of uplift that celebrate the very privileged — and either ignore or look askance at working or poor people. I don’t know how hard Jenner works, whether she’s up at 6 a.m. tweaking color palettes or if she’s decided to study the chemistry behind makeup. And I don’t care, because none of that matters. Jenner’s birth into an affluent family trumps work ethic.

This past spring, a group of well-respected scholars with Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University released a sobering report called “What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap.” It finds black households hold less than seven cents on the dollar compared with white households. White households living near the poverty line typically have $18,000 in wealth, while black households in similar economic circumstances have a median wealth of near zero. The report debunks widely held myths that education, homeownership, saving, financial literacy and entrepreneurship will — poof! — eliminate racial wealth inequality.

And speaking of entrepreneurship, Jenner — as well as the Zuckerbergs and Bezos — ride the tale of “self-made” when in actuality their families helped them from jump with capital. The report says: “In general, the net effect of entrepreneurship is to recycle an expanding–often an outrageously expanding — circuit of wealth among members of an upper class of white players. In the 21st century, the number of persons coming from poverty, whether white or black, to enter the ranks of the super-rich via entrepreneurship is trivial.”

When I hear “self-made” entrepreneur, my attention turns toward struggling Illinois families locked out of the economy because of debt. Earlier this year a group of Illinois mothers and grandmothers — called Power-PAC and part of the local nonprofit Community Organizing and Family Issues — surveyed 300 families who live on less than $15,000. It wasn’t just household bills that keep them in poverty. Fines and fees from tickets and unpaid bills create a disparate impact especially for immigrants and moms of color. Income inequality continues to grow in the country and one doesn’t snap a finger to climb out of poverty. Low-wage jobs are increasing, and the middle class is hollowing out. Yet we cling to the concept of “self-made.”

Read the full article here