Russell Simmons is the latest victim of social media backlash. A video purported to be Harriet Tubman’s sex tape hit his You Tube channel yesterday and the black social media universe wasted no time letting him know just how much he’d erred. Not only did Black Twitter and just about every other place where black folks convene on the internet streets go crazy on Russell, they quickly shared the Twitter handles of the clip’s two actors, the actress playing Tubman and the writer.

To understand the ire directed at Simmons, take a look at the offending video. (Warning: Slightly NSFW, and the “N” word is briefly used.) The scenario is this – a thick black woman playing Tubman makes plans with her black lover to blackmail her slavemaster/lover so she can help more slaves to freedom.

I’m not sure in what universe Simmons felt this was funny but once he tweeted his amusement to the world, the web lit him up. His Twitter feed, @UncleRush was flooded with responses, including one user who called him a “racist house ni—a.” Facebook pages lit up with comments, with some folks going in on Russell, others saying people are taking it too seriously.

The NAACP got involved, calling Simmons and asking to take the offending video down from his website, Global Grind. To his credit, once the response went viral, Simmons, a longtime advocate of free speech, took it down and apologized, saying that he is a very liberal person with very thick skin who never censored a comedian (or any of his rap artists). He also admitted via Twitter that he may have “a sensitivity chip missing.”

A disclaimer: I know and worked for Russell Simmons and Def Jam in the 80’s. While he’s clearly a central part of the creation of hip-hop, I’ve never felt, based on personal experience, that his views on women were particularly progressive. (Another website has made a cottage industry out of mocking his dating habits.) It was a long time ago, and I can’t say Russell has done anything untoward since, but I think it’s fair to say that this is something he should have thought twice about given Tubman’s deservedly iconic status as a historic figure.

Sure, we can all laugh at things that are funny and edgy and political correctness is at epic levels, but Black social media has given the African American community a chance to publicly air their views and this was one that didn’t fly with folks. Given the George Zimmerman verdict, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the upcoming 50th Anniversary Celebration of the March on Washington, folks are feeling a little sensitive about the continuing inequities faced by people of color in this country. And really, do you blame them?

Fortunately, Simmons, who has enjoyed tremendous support from the black community over the years, heard the backlash and acted swiftly. Given that he is a father of two daughters, this incident may help him consider ways he might better contribute to uplifting black women instead of making fun of ones many of us hold in high regard.

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42 thoughts on “Russell Simmons Thinks Harriet Tubman Sex Tape Is Funny; Black Social Media Says No Way

  1. jazzdancer on said:

    I wonder why he thought he could get away with taking a famous historical black icon and turn her into a strumpet, and with a white slave owner at that. It was not only insensitive but dumb.

  2. Charlene on said:

    People lighten up! it’s not that serious! just think of other parodies in film that made you laugh! Same thing just a different play.

    • Bet you thought Lil Wanker’s comparison of a woman’s private parts to Emmitt Till’s face was funny too didn’t you? If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything. You’ve fallen and, judging by your sad comment, don’t think you’ll be getting back up.

      • Charlene on said:

        Sorry you feel that way, I look at it as comedy. There’s more things to be concerned about then a skit, like the killing of T. Martin. People are different, you feel one way i feel another, but let’s not get carried away.

      • @Charlene you are different and if you find this funny then you should really check yourself again,

        yes others do not find this to be funny, and to be laughed at, now as long as it took us to get a black president , I never thought I would ever see that in my lifetime, and the reason why we are having such a hard time in our culture is because of people like Russell Ignorant Simmons, we live in a Society where people are not talented and we live in Society where people of color are still Not unified and we are the only race that has yet to get it straight.

        ALL the young black people who died and paved the way for us, are crying and turning over in there graves. so yes if you find this funny that is your right but Look at it again and ask yourself is this what I want my children to watch, and laugh at. is this the kind of example I want them to Imitate.

      • Charlene on said:

        You’re right and it’s are differences that makes the World go round. I chose not to have children. I used to regret it, but now I’m happy with my choice because of the ways of our world. I wouldn’t want to try and rise a child, it’s hard work. I do understand what you’re saying and it’s right.

      • @charlene thank you for that, stay encouraged stay wise and stay blessed. have a great day!

    • MisterAnthonyon on said:

      The video play is now blocked so I cannot see it. However, as a history major with a Black history emphasis it’s difficult for me to understand why we seem to be the only people who enjoy denegrating our heroes. As if we didn’t have enough put downs from society to deal with. I have yet to see a Betsy Ross sex parady or a Martha Washington hootchie video!

      • You need to get over yourself. The negative responses that this video has received is evident of the purposeless lives that people really live. Where is the OUTRAGE about real life disparate conditions that black people live in/through on a daily basis and NOTHING is being DONE or SAID! Where is the pride when it comes to the ACTIONS that need to occur to do something improve the way our neighborhoods are? Russell should be commended for providing the opportunities that he does for many people who are aspiring to make it in the entertainment industry. You people are SO gullable. The video did precisely what it was supposed to do, increase awareness and subscription for the Russell Simmons DEF digital YOUTUBE channel. All this “outrage” was the best and cheapest advertising that he could have ever hoped for. Sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity is dangerous…

  3. Fayola on said:

    Its tragic when a black man who has come as far as Russell Simmons, who has a voice in the black infrastructure in society SINKS to contributing to the detrimental black images we SO ABHOR. AFter all you have done THIS is what we will FORGET YOU for.

  4. Feekoningin on said:

    I agree it wasn’t in very good taste — and much comedy is not. Sometimes, that’s reason something is funny. I certainly support the participants’ — and there clearly were many more than Russell Simmons — in their right to free speech. But I definitely support those who think this is disrespectful to use their voices. That has led to this video being removed from Simmons’ YouTube channel. Not sure why they had to use Harriet Tubman in the first place. They could have used any name aside from that of a real woman who is highly revered — not that it would have made it any funnier. When I first heard about this, I hoped it had a higher message. After all, not all art is pretty. But I have to admit, I don’t see a worthwhile message here.

    • Why does there have to be a message, perhaps, it was simply about humor. And as to why Harriet Tubman, why not? It could have been that they were making a piece for a black audience, by blacks, about blacks and like it or not, slavery was a significant part of our history in the USA. If I recall correctly, there is quite a bit of controversy about HOW Harriett Tubman was able to orchestrate the escape through the underground railroads without being detected, thus this video attempting to answer the question but with a “comedic” twist. It is unclear to me why anyone has gotten offended by this work and if it is reverence as you have stated, then its even more unclear as to why anyone wants to pick this video as a starting point to show RESPECT…

      • If you don’t understand why this video is so insulting to so many people, trying to explain it to you would be a total and complete waste of time. Kind of like trying to explain to a dull witted child why water is wet. Virtually impossible.

  5. I think this video and all the videos with rappers using guns and talking about killing each other “beef” should also be taken down. Maybe this is the start of cleaning up the foolishness we see and hear.

  6. He is ignorant; racism still exists in so many forms. Just because your community is safe – even Ivy League black professors can get jacked in their own yard. Martin/Zimmerman is but ONE case of many. Instead of being a childish idiot, removed from his responsibilities as an upwardly mobile black male, he should engage in some responsibility for hic culture. He is a bafoon. Harriet was the bravest person I know – male or female, black or otherwise. His Elmer Fudd tone could use some compassion for HIS race.

  7. boycott russel zimmerman … I mean russel simmons ….. stop play of all of his past and present artists – close him down – his trash rush card and everything else too – he has enough money to survive.

    he’s done nothing but disrespect and exploit women – misguide and mislead children, youth and young adults for over 20+ years ……

    while his twitter account is full of his selfish words as if he is some great prophet about life.

  8. natasha on said:

    I didn’t think the video was funny however I did think it was a disgrace. Somethings and people are just off limits and deserves more respect, honor and preservation and I believe Harriet Tubman and the freeing of slaves has earned her respect.

  9. Belinda on said:

    He has done a great disservice to those who have fought for equality in our past, present, and future. I would never have thought someone of his standing would be so ignorant. He has degraded the memory and work of a strong black woman. Without her and others like her, he would not be in the position he so cherishes right now. Money, Power, and moving into mainstream America has desensitized many people of the truth and respect of our ancestors.

  10. Chris powell on said:

    I don’t understand how a black American descendant of slaves could not feel in their soul that the making of that video was wrong. The end result is both shameful and embarrassing! Shame on Russel, the actors, everyone involved and everyone else who finds it funny or supports it.

  11. charles mason on said:

    If the movie was making fond of God or Jesus Christ, most of you all probably wouldn’t care less. Mark my words, pretty soon, preachers are not going to be able to preach certain things from the bible over the air waves… and it’s not going to stop at that.

    • I’ll say it again. We have slid so far down in degradation, I don’t think we’ll ever recover. And your statement is even more proof.

    • jane doe, if you thought that Harriet Tubman sex tape was funny, you are ignorant of our history. There was nothing funny about it and Russell Simmons said he may have a sensitivity “gene” missing. It was quite disgusting; not funny.

    • @jane doe, We are calm but if you think this was funny ,, you must do not have children, I would not want my children to ever think this is funny. or my family its not funny and if you really look at what is really happening our own people are degrading us and finding things in our culture that they think that will make them some money.

  12. Oh my GOd russell must not be getting any attention in the media so this is what they do to get attention, because he not as popular as he use to be. YOU know how they get so they can make that mighty dollar, thats all Russell is about….GETTING PAID!

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