Russell Simmons’ new YouTube channel, All Def Digital (ADD) made waves for all the wrong reasons Wednesday, when it posted the video “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” as a part of its web series ADD History.
Before getting into the ways this video is problematic, and just reading the title should give you a clue, let’s state upfront how much it sucks from a pure entertainment level. It sucks. It’s just not funny. That would be the case even if it wasn’t chock full of stereotypes that yank the teeth out of any potential satire or parody.
In the video, a bossy mammy analogue for Harriet Tubman has her shuckin’ and jivin’ co-conspirator record her sex with “massa” so they can use the footage to blackmail him into starting the Underground Railroad. Hilarity ensues.
Except it doesn’t.
— The Moxie Sophic (@TheMoxieSophic) August 15, 2013
After the storm reached a swell Wednesday night, Simmons released an apology statement:
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 and it’s hard to offend me. 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 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 those I offended, I am sincerely sorry.
The rape of enslaved women was one of the most pervasively evil aspects of the evil enterprise that was chattel slavery in the United States. To see it mined as fodder for terrible jokes on a YouTube channel co-owned by an African-American media mogul is more than disappointing. It is pathetic.
Perhaps even more pathetic is the channel’s description of the clip as “the off-record account of how Harriet Tubman blackmailed her master into letting her run the Underground Railroad.” In the name of humor, one of American’s greatest heroes is demeaned while having her agency stripped from her, by attributing the Underground Railroad to a fictional white slave owner. Uncle Rush tweeted a link to this video himself, and called it the funniest thing he’d ever scene.
You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t laugh.