History captures Harriet Tubman as one of America’s most fearless abolitionists, a woman who escaped slavery and devoted her life to helping others do the same, at great peril. Which sounds hilarious, history. Thanks for being so reliably dull with your “facts” and “respectful considerations of character.” Anyway, once again it’s up to Internet-based comedy to take the Harriet Tubmans of this world down a peg, which is just what Russell Simmons’ new YouTube channel, All Def Digital, proposed with its video “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape.”
As its name suggests, the sketch—which debuted this week to commemorate both All Def’s launch and the fact that everybody is over slavery now—features Tubman earning her freedom by willingly submitting to her owner’s sexual advances, then blackmailing him with a film of them doing it. It’s satire, you see, based on the many unspeakable things done to Tubman and her fellow female slaves, and the idea that this video would probably be pretty funny if you just ignored all that stuff. Yet somehow audiences were not amused, even though the video featured a lengthy scene of a slaveowner violating Harriet Tubman doggystyle—clearly the most hilarious of all sexual degradations that can be visited upon a beloved historical figure.
Among the people taken by surprise by the peals of laughter that failed to echo across America: Russell Simmons, who—after seeing incensed messages from people such as Spike Lee spread all across the Internet—decided, upon careful reflection, maybe “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” wasn’t the smart social satire its title would indicate, pulling it from the site. Simmons then issued a sorry-you-were-offended-apology on Global Grind, noting that he’d been called by his “buddies at the NAACP” (“Hey buddy! So, we’re just watching Harriet Tubman get raped over here. What’s up buddy?”), and saying he only now, in light of all these people getting really upset, understood that it might upset people.
“I’m a very liberal person with thick skin,” Simmons wrote, in what is always the sign of a good apology to come to thin-skinned crybabies. “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.”
Indeed, silly Russell Simmons with his silly little video about Harriet Tubman getting raped by her slaveowner, on his channel for silliness. Anyway, at least we can all look back and laugh about it now—just like slavery—and Simmons can return to sharing simple wisdom with the world on Twitter like “Every day set the simple goal of trying to be more awake and less distracted,” so you don’t accidentally post a video called “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape.”
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