I wrote the following statement in a previous post, but in light of the latest Russell Simmons public relations debacle, it bears worth repeating: In matters of recognizing and appreciating the greatness of history, the specter of time hovers, always threatening to diminish the importance and seriousness of days forever removed. To be sure, history is a great educator; but if we allow the steady progression of time to dull its lessons, we will simply become students of profound ignorance. If you are not privy to what I am alluding to, well, Simmons launched a YouTube channel called All Def Digital. And on that channel, a vile parody was featured. Titled Harriet Tubman Sex Tape, it depicts a Mammy caricature in the role of Harriet Tubman seducing and sleeping with the plantation slave master, as another male slave secretly records the encounter from a nearby closet, all in an effort to blackmail her slave master into freeing slaves. Classy right? Public outrage followed. Cue fake apology by Simmons.
“In the whole history of Def Comedy Jam, I’ve never taken down a controversial comedian. When my buddies from the NAACP called and asked me to take down the Harriet Tubman video from the All Def Digital YouTube channel and apologize, I agreed.
I’m a very liberal person with thick skin. My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there’s still tremendous injustice. And with Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master? I thought it was politically correct. Silly me. I can now understand why so many people are upset. I have taken down the video. Lastly, I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry.” - Russell Simmons
Thick skin? I guess the rest of us are just too damn sensitive. There once was a time when the culture of hip hop honored our history, our heritage. It appears that time is fading. Lil Wayne demonstrated his willful ignorance by evoking painful memories of Emmett Till in a disgusting rap lyric. Jay Z showcased his arrogant temerity by calling out 86-year-old (yes, 86-year-old) civil rights activist Harry Belafonte in a rap lyric as retribution for a criticism Belafonte had leveled at both Mr. Carter and his wife Mrs. Knowles-Carter. And now, somehow Simmons thought (and from that lame apology – probably still thinks) that crudely satirizing one of the greatest historical figures in black history is funny. Simmons, you sir, are an ass clown. I wish I had something witty and intelligent to say, but ass clown will suffice. End rant.
Look, this blog is relatively small. Nevertheless, I utilize this small space on the Internet to honor our black history and heritage. And that is why it angers me when high-profile figures use their respected platforms for utter nonsense and plain old disrespect. Trivializing rape. Trivializing black slavery in America. Trivializing Harriet Tubman. Deplorable and reprehensible on all levels. We cannot allow our history to become a caricature of itself. We cannot allow our history to be parodied. It is paramount that we factually present our history to younger generations, and by the looks of it, to older generations as well. Lest we risk our history being forgotten altogether. And that is unacceptable. We can do better. We will do better.