Armenian enough?

March 17, 2012

The Kardashians made the news last weekend.  Actually, they’re in the news a lot, and very little of it is good.  Spearheaded by middle-sister Kim, the trio has steadily risen to fame over the past few years.  However, they rarely, if ever, mention that they are Armenian.  I guess it’s understandable.  They are half-Armenian, after all.  Additionally, unlike most Armenians you might meet in L.A., they are not the children of immigrants.  Their Armenian father was not even the child of immigrants.  Both of their grandparents were born in Los Angeles, and their great-grandparents came to America before the genocide.  It’s interesting to think that the Kardashian sisters put Armenia on the map when you consider that they themselves know so little about it.  They consider themselves 4th generation Armenians.

If any of you missed the episode, Khloe’s husband Lamar was given the opportunity to play basketball in Turkey during the NBA lockout.  While Lamar considered the option, Khloe looked troubled.  I couldn’t understand why.  Khloe mentioned that her father raised them to be “proud Armenians.” I wonder what exactly that means.  What does it mean to be proud of where you come from?  Does it mean that you learn all that you can about it, work to preserve it, try to better it?  Does it mean take it into account only when it benefits you?  Or that you remember it always?

One entry on Kim Kardashian’s website describes what she has grown up learning.  “Growing up, my grandmother talked to us about [the genocide] often and I even did a report on it for my history class.  I find that knowing your heritage is important in knowing yourself.”  She included her grandparents’ wedding photo.

On another occasion, she has stated that she does not speak Armenian and has never been to Armenia, despite finding the time to travel to many other countries.  Many people I have talked to this week commend the Kardashians for underscoring the importance of the Armenian Genocide.  But, somehow, I’m left wanting more.  These women are aware of where their great-grandparents came from and what their fate could have been.  Yet, I doubt that Khloe ever thinks about the offenses that were committed against her father’s people.  To be honest, before this internship began, I rarely thought about the genocide.  Now, it comes to mind continually.  For example, I watched PBS’s The Powder & the Glory this weekend.  The narrator revealed that Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, two cosmetic industry magnates, began their lifelong rivalry in 1914 New York.  This was a time and place where society women were trying lipstick for the first time.  And all I could think about was what my great-grandmothers were doing in 1914 in Adana and Hajun.  They knew it was coming.

While I do think about these things and work to remember, better, and preserve my culture, I’m not the one with the camera crew and 3.5 million viewers.  The Kardashians have the means to do something big.  While I do appreciate the sudden interest in their culture, I wish that the suffering of an entire people—of my family—was a not relegated to a simple dramatic device and a little snag to overcome.  I’ll keep waiting for them to do something that I can really be proud of.

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elen Asatryan
Email / Tel: (818) 500-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
Western Region
104 N. Belmont, Suite 200, Glendale, CA 91206 * Tel. (818) 500-1918