Back in April, Pepsi ran an ad featuring Kendall Jenner and it caused a huge uproar. The ad showed people joining a general peace protest while she modeled for a photoshoot. After seeing people going by, she ditched her fancy clothes, wiped off her makeup and joined the marchers. When she got up to the front, she reached across the lines to hand a police officer a can of Pepsi.
Many people saw the commercial as nothing new and just either moved on with their lives or dismissed it as something they’ve seen a million times. Other people were extremely offended and accused the soda company, as well as Jenner, of minimizing the true struggles of minorities particularly in light of the issues between African Americans and law enforcement.
It might have been a stupid commercial and it might have missed the mark but both Pepsi and Jenner immediately apologized and the ad was pulled from television. Despite this, Jenner has been roasted pretty much non-stop ever since.
Prior to this, there was no indication that Jenner, whose mother is Armenian, father is transgender (Caitlyn Jenner), and nieces and nephews are biracial, has demonstrated racist behavior. In a recent episode of her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, she addressed the issue while talking to older sister, Kim Kardashian.
“I feel really bad that anyone was ever offended. I feel really bad that this was taken such a wrong way and I genuinely feel like s**t,” Kendall shared emotionally as she admitted that she had “no idea how I’m going to bounce back from it. I didn’t even know what to do.”
Kardashian did her best to reassure her younger sister explaining, “This is the first time you’ve had a scandal. This is your first real experience with something like this. It’s OK…. This is just gonna be the biggest lesson learned for you.”
“It’s really depressing and it bothers me every single day,” Kendall replied. “I would never purposely hurt someone, ever. And obviously if I knew this was gonna be the outcome, I would have never done something like this,” Kendall said as she cried. “But you don’t know when you’re in the moment. I felt so f**king stupid. The [idea] that I would offend other people or hurt other people was definitely not the intent. And that’s what got me the most.”
Here’s the thing – most of us are really struggling to know the right things to say and do right now. While the ad was a little tone deaf and may have oversimplified issues, the message was one of bridging the gap and finding peace. It showed a young girl being hesitant to get involved and then walking right up to the front line.
If we want people to get involved and to learn, we need to educate and be patient. We need to be firm in our stance against hatred while recognizing that new allies might struggle to understand the nuanced “right and wrong” of how to represent these issues.
Kendall Jenner is 21 years old. I’m a biracial woman with multiracial children and even I mess up sometimes. I can’t imagine what would happen if the things I thought were a “good idea” at 21 became publicly known. I’d probably have to dig a hole somewhere and hide in it. The same is probably true for most of us.
There are plenty of people who are openly hateful right now – we don’t need to lump the Kendall Jenners of the world in with them. There are also plenty of people thinking about the important issues right now. Let’s work together to help each other understand so that we don’t discourage people from even trying.