Once again, Kim Kardashian is accused of cultural appropriation.
This time, she isn't accused of stealing culture from black people and claiming it as her own.
No -- her latest photo and caption are seeing her accused of appropriating and fetishizing Japanese culture.
Cultural appropriation might not carry the obvious hateful intent of, say, blackface or a physical attack against a minority, but appropriation is part of the complex social forces that keep minorities marginalized.
But ... is Kim's photo in which she poses with a geisha an example of appropriation ... or is it just appreciation?
Take a look at this picture and decide for yourself.
Kim decided to share a snap from her recent trip to Japan. Fans can clearly see that Kim is pushing out her lips for the camera while seeming to apply makeup to a geisha's cheek.
Kim Kardashian captioned this photo: "A dream come true."
While not all responses were negative, some immediate comments accused Kim of cultural appropriation.
"HOW ARE U SO PROBLEMATIC?"
That all-caps comment shows how frustrated some fans can be when their favorite celebrities say or do things that disappoint them.
(It's worth noting that Kim's fans find what they see as racial insensitivity particularly troubling, because Kim's three children are black.)
Some, at least, made jokes about it.
"Kim posing with the next culture she’s about to appropriate. [Just kidding], love you Kim."
Other fans rose to Kim's defense.
"Lmao people saying cultural appropriation. Get educated. Kim you’re doing great sweetie."
And it never hurts to ask questions, as one fan did, wanting to see if Kim was crossing any boundaries.
"Is this cultural appropriation? Actual question. Is she wrong for this? I feel like she might be but I’m not sure bc it’s not my culture. Any ideas?"
It was another fan who offered an answer with a very nuanced reply:
"Not really. What culture is she appropriating?"
"None ... stop lighting fires. People are allowed to protect their cultures from appropriation too [by the way] without an eye roll."
It's important to note that Japan's relationship with the West is not the same as that which black people have endured.
For example, while a white American wearing culturally sensitive clothing of a Native American (such as a war bonnet) would be pretty horrifying, Japan as a rule has no issue with outsiders wearing, say, a kimono.
In the 16th Century, Japanese imperial regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi cracked down on European influences, both cultural and political.
Having seen what the Spanish had done in the Philippines and not wanting to see that repeated in Japan, he drew a hard line.
As a result, Japan has only very recently begun to see their culture emulated and fetishized by others on any broad scale.
In general, they tend to view that differently because they did not endure centuries of enslavement by European or American powers.
At the same time, Americans of Japanese decent are a minority group and often view white peers claiming Japanese culture in a very different light. Especially when they face racism for being perceived to "act Asian" (or not "act Asian").
So, like everything regarding the social construct that is race, this is a complicated topic.
I'm by no means Japanese and would never claim to have the authority to decide whether or not this is appropriation.
But both my initial reaction and my conclusion after a lot of careful thought is that Kim is just practicing cultural appreciation.
If Kim starts up obnoxious antics that reduces Japan to a stereotype in the douchiest way possible, like in this photo of Logan Paul in Japan, that would be a very different matter.
The photo just shows Kim consensually applying makeup to a geisha's face. She's not pretending to be one on a magazine cover or claiming geishas as part of her brand.
This looks like appreciation. Just because Kim can be problematic at times doesn't mean that there aren't false alarms.