What does it take to make the list of top 10 Googled search terms on any given day? Apparently a mention on E!’s Khloe and Lamar – one of the spinoffs of the ever popular (and ever multiplying) Keeping Up with the Kardashians, chronicling the lives of the Kardashian family – will do the trick. Say what you will about them, but this past Sunday, I was very proud of my Armenian sisters (I’m of Armenian descent, as are the Kardashian siblings, whose father was Armenian). The majority of the episode focused on the family’s debate about whether Lamar should play basketball in Istanbul, Turkey (this was before the NBA and the players had reached an agreement, thereby preventing a basketball-less winter.) Khloe was genuinely struggling between supporting her husband (who truly missed the game and wanted to get back on the court whether on US soil or not), and doing right by her people.
You see, while you probably didn’t learn about it in history class, back in 1915, a genocide was committed against the Armenian people whereby 1.5 million Armenians were driven from their homes and massacred by the hands of the Turkish government. Unlike the Germans, they have yet to acknowledge that a genocide took place and they continue perpetuating the injustice by aggressively denying the facts to this day. People who come from a lineage of survivors of this genocide obviously take issue with this denial for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that by covering up such atrocities, it only paves the way for others to take place with little to no repercussions – case in point: the current situation in the Sudan. The Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century and the fact that the Turkish government was never held accountable for their actions literally set the set stage for the Jewish Holocaust and the many other genocides to follow. (Hitler famously said to his troops before invading Poland “Go, kill without mercy. After all, who remembers the Armenians.”)
I’m sure you weren’t expecting a history lesson here, but the point being that even Khloe Kardashian, someone obviously far removed from her ancestry in many ways, still struggles with this issue. She, like many Armenians around the world, regardless of age, occupation or social status, all share a common bond. Despite Turkey’s efforts, we survived as a people and we strongly identify with our heritage as a result. She felt it important enough to devote an episode of programming to the subject matter and ultimately, although the NBA lockout was resolved, it was clear that she and Lamar would have seriously considered not going to Turkey due to the nation’s injustice towards her people. I say, kudos Khloe, kudos.
And as a result, a few million Americans subsequently Googled the search term “Armenian Genocide” the day after the show aired. That is more exposure than many years of educational effort on behalf of hard working community activists combined – in one fell swoop, Khloe educated millions of people about an important issue. And people listened. It was somehow more effective than if people had heard the same information via a trusted anchorman or local newscaster. Perhaps it was the the fact that it was a history lesson folded into an entertaining, guilty TV pleasure, that did the trick. Whatever it was that got people engaged, it worked, and if pop culture could be leveraged more often to bring about positive change, imagine how much good we could collectively do in the world. Obviously this isn’t the first time this has happened; people figured out long ago that attaching celebrities to a cause or charity will do wonders, and documentarians have mastered the skill of making films about everything from politics to obesity entertaining and even riveting. So, keep up the good work, Hollywood- leverage your endless reach and power to help end the many injustices around the world, because as Khloe and Lamar just proved, you can successfully entertain and educate at the same time.
Now voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which of these causes, founded by some of today’s biggest celebrities, do you support (or are you most interested in supporting)?
The ONE Campaign (Bono)
Keep A Child Alive (Alicia Keys)
Make it Right (Brad Pitt)
Not on Our Watch (George Clooney)
To support the current efforts to end the genocide in Sudan, please visit http://www.endgenocide.org.
For more information on the Armenian Genocide, please visit http://www.armenian-genocide.org/genocide.html.