Russell Simmons Comes Up With Something Worse Than The RushCard…
Just when you thought the blatant disregard, disrespect, and degradation of Black women couldn’t get any worse in the mainstream media, we have Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam records and hip-hop pioneer, endorsing one of the worst parodies known to man: the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape.
Twitter and the rest of the Internet world exploded when Simmons tweeted the link to the video for his foray into his newest YouTube channel, All Def Digital. Simmons tweeted that the video was the “funniest thing” he had ever seen, and that’s precisely when all hell broke loose.
About 70% of the African American women on my Twitter feed were raking Russell Simmons through the coals, writing scathing 140-character responses to his seemingly egregious endorsement. Being the
nosy news junkie I am, I decided to see what all the hoopla was about. Given the title of the video Simmons tweeted, I was about 96% sure that the “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” would not be the funniest thing mine eyes ever did see.
Aaaand I was right. Not only was the video not funny, it was offensive to me. My brain simply could not compute how this video even made it to YouTube, much less how it was supported by a media mogul like Simmons. After some calls from some “buddies” over at the NAACP, Simmons decided to take the video down from his All Def Digital channel and issue a
But, I’m still left with three things that I just don’t understand about Russell Simmons’ Harriet Tubman Sex Tape and his subsequent apology:
not-so-brightidea was this?: Look, I know that keeping an engaged audience in this current ADD-ridden media space is about as difficult as scaling Mount Everest, but I reaaaalllly need to know who sold Uncle Rush on this idea enough to make him want to lay down some duckets to have this thing written, shot, edited and ultimately uploaded onto his YouTube channel. Maybe the idea was good in theory. After all, comedian Dave Chappelle did do skits depicting a Black-White Supremacist and the Racial Draft, but the difference was his were actually smart and funny. Of all people who should have an eye for the cutting edge, Russell Simmons should be one of them. He struck gold with Def Comedy Jam in the early 90s, propelling the careers of many of the now-popular stand-up comedians we know and love today, like D.L. Hughley, Steve Harvey and Bernie Mac. The Harriet Tubman Sex Tape wasn’t smart or funny and should have been left on the cutting room floor, never to see the light of day.
- Who are these actors that said “okay” to this?: Just as hard as it is to get all eyes to stay on you, I know it’s equally hard to get a gig out here as a working actor. I know that folk don’t want to bus and wait tables in LA or New York, or wherever this thing was shot, forever and pretty much anything with Russell Simmons’ name on it should guarantee some sort of come up. BUT…I’m not really sure if I could have read the script to this project without feeling some kind of way about it all. Satire and parody are meant to be irreverent and tongue-in-cheek. I realize this. But, context is also important to remember here, too. Slavery ended not that long ago, the tolerance for rape culture in this society is still way too high, and depictions of Black women in mainstream media are still stuck in one of a few categories: promiscuous Video Vixen/Jezebel, Baby Momma/Gold-Digger, and Angry Single Overly Educated Lonely Black Woman Who Desperately Wants Nothing More Than To Find and Keep a Good Man. And, none of these are laughing matters. I just wonder how these actors thought that this was going to positively propel their careers forward or even add something useful to the world of media.
- Why Harriet Tubman, though?: More broadly, why slavery and sex? I’d go so far as to say that anytime “slavery” or “sex” are mentioned, the next logical term in the sequence should be “rape.” Because ten times out of ten, that’s what it is: Rape. So, maybe this video should be renamed the “Harriet Tubman Rape Tape,” because that was often the reality of what happened between White male slave owners and their Black women slaves: Rape. Sure, the idea of “flipping the script” is provocative, but definitely not in the way All Def Digital envisioned it. Why take the image of one of the most courageous abolitionists, freedom fighters, and suffragists in history and make light of the very real struggles she could have faced? It’s really beyond me. We live in a time where revisionist historians favor the white-washing of American history in our k-12 schools. So, many of our children educated in American cannot rely on their textbooks to teach them about such powerful figures like Harriet Tubman. As a matter of fact, when they Google her, guess what’s going to be the first ten hits? This sex tape. -__-. Furthermore, it confounds me as to how Russell Simmons chooses to stand up for the rights and the humanity of young Black males like Trayvon Martin, but can participate actively in the degradation of the Black woman in the media. As the father of two, precious young women, Simmons should know better and should want better for his own children.
I’m sure this is not the kind of “buzz” Russell Simmons wanted for his new All Def Digital YouTube channel, but I suppose that’s how the cookie crumbles when you settle for cheap laughs. Uncle Rush would be advised to go meditate and do a few more tree poses if he thought, at any point, the stunt he pulled was acceptable. And, until he comes correct with a real apology, I won’t be convinced that he “gets it” or “respect[s]” why I and so many others are incensed.
What are your thoughts about the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape?