So now Harriet Tubman is a sex tape parody. Yes, you read correctly. Harriet Tubman: that lady you read about mostly likely at school in February. If you don't have a school that taught much on African American History, might have viewed a quick bio of her on BET as we "celebrate Black History Month with BET." You know: UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. Her accomplishments of helping change the trajectory of slavery not just as a person of color but as a WOMAN during a time when neither were valued, have morphed into a crude joke. I bet you are on the edge of your seat. Are you seething mad? Are you wondering what HATEFUL racist white dude whipped up this sex tape parody?!!!!
Pump the brakes.
It is none other than Russell Simmons. You know, Hip-Hop Pioneer Russell Simmons. You know, Zen Tweets All Day Long on Twitter Russell Simmons. Yeah. Him. A Black man.
We can talk about how gross it is that the video portrays Tubman using her "feminine wiles" to seduce her Master. Because slaves who are owned by other people totally have the power to consent, riiiight. We can talk about how rape is a made to be a joke with the subtle way the actress playing Tubman notes, all those times she pretended she didn't like it...
Hell, even if this wasn't a portrayal of Harriet Tubman, and just a lowly ole "unimportant slave woman" this shit would still be nasty. Because ownership of other people, rape, and the denigration of Black History by using SEX as the impetus for the joke is horrible enough. Instead of educating about sex, talking about how our community faces the threat of HIV and AIDS, talking about Domestic Violence and how Rape has tragically impacted the Black community, Russell thought it would be a good idea to stir all those things together in some kind of dysfunctional mashup and add Harriet Tubman to the mix for good measure.
This kind of thing HURTS. This kind of thing hurts worse when it is someone from your own community.
But now, this brings up a point. Is Russell from my community? He used to be.
I think we need to talk about the fact that when black folks get to a certain fame strata the level of cultural appropriation they undergo to run in those circles transforms their connection with the struggle of what it means to be Black in America. Can I say that? I hope so... because I see it more and more. There is a certain kind of throwback to "pouring one out" for the homies as a form of obligated honor, but there is a big ole cognitive disconnect.
The cavalier use of a Black heroine, like Harriet Tubman, is a subtle way to say we no longer need heroes and heroines like her. Her power is trivialized when she is stripped down to a sex joke. She is objectified and her humanity spills away. Do we not need Harriet any longer? Are there no longer black girls and women in need of an example to look to, to prove that they too can rise up and fight for justice? Does the Black community just have such an excess of honored heroes and heroines that we can spare to make fun of some? Maybe Russell Simmons' daughters don't need Harriet Tubman. They are financially hemmed in and freely use the term "fabulosity". My daughter though? She still lives in a town where people ask her what she is because of her dark skin and think Kwanzaa is a hate holiday that Blacks made up to piss off White folks. My kids still need Harriet Tubman, and they need her in her place of honor- unmarred by tasteless triflin' jokes.
So shit like this doesn't hurt people like Russell Simmons too much. They can afford for to say we need to get a sense of humor because they are shielded from the impact of people taking those sort of things seriously. Maybe I am off, but those are my observation
I wonder when his Martin Luther King domestic abuse parody will hit YouTube.
GlobalGrind reported Russell Simmons issuing an apology for the video and saying this is the first time he has allowed an artist to be censored...because the NAACP called him. Things that make you go "HMMMMMMMM."