Aug 15, 2013

The One With Russell Simmons and the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape

Image via Twib.Me

So.   Russell Simmons.  Yeah.

You know, I wasn't actually gonna write about this.  I first saw the disgusting post that Russell had linked to (on his own All Def Digital Youtube Channel), which was a "Harriet Tubman Sex Tape", portraying Tubman who has been repeatedly raped by "Massa", turning the tables and blackmailing him into letting her run the Underground Railroad, saying it was the "most hilarious thing I've ever seen" yesterday evening.  And around that time everyone else on twitter was seeing it and were losing their damn minds over it, and rightly so.

A friend of mine saw some tweets I made about it, expressing my outrage and disgust over it, and he jokingly said "I smell a new blog post coming".  But I told him I was going to leave that up to better writers than myself.  And I felt that way for two reasons, although they both sort of intertwine.


As a thirty something White guy, I'm not exactly the core demographic of those who are likely to be the most offended by this, and who are most marginalized.  I realize that.  I also realize the offense that can come from having the White guy always ride in to smack down bigotry and racism against other ethnic groups.  I do get that.

I don't think that means that I shouldn't have a voice, although I acknowledge that there are those out there who do feel that those who are not African American should not speak on issues that involve the African American community, I just felt at that moment that there were others who I viewed as much better at getting their thoughts out in a clear, concise and coherent manner than myself.  Those who were doing a very good job illustrating just how fucked up what Russell Simmons had posted was, and why it was so problematic.

You can read some of those by clicking HERE to read Elon James White's thoughts on it, or you can click HERE to read Friday Foster's eloquent and extensive breakdown of just who Harriet Tubman was, what she meant to African Americans, and why Simmon's cruel and despicable video demeans those things.

So I wasn't going to speak on this, beyond my flurry of Twitter comments, like the ones below:

So then I went to bed, or at least tried to go to bed.  Yet here it is now almost 7am on the West Coast and I still haven't managed to fall asleep.  So I got back online, and read that Russell apparently caught wind that everyone wasn't falling out of their chairs laughing, like the audience of his old show Def Comedy Jam, and instead were offended.

He pulled the video and issued a brief apology, that was posted over at Global Grind.  Now there are people defending him, and saying how nobody's perfect, yada yada yada.

Interesting how nobody ever plays that "nobody's perfect" card until they fuck up majorly, huh?

And here's the thing, if this was the 1st strike for "Uncle Rush", that apology might mean something.  I mean it would still be a huge strike against him, and it would never be forgotten, no matter what he does from here on out.  That said, if this was his first foray into the fuckery, then perhaps more people would be able to easily accept the apology and chalk it up to an incredibly bad life choice, and possibly some alcohol.

However this is NOT Simmons' first cockup in this area.  Allow me to point out just a few things off the top of my head.

First and foremost, The Rush Card.  I mean is there anything that can possibly be said at this point about this huge scam that hasn't already been said?  70 Entries on "Ripoff Report". Then there's 236 "Complaints & Reviews" on Consumer Affairs where 89% of the reviews are 1 Star Ratings, and only 2% are 5 Star.   Many instances listed have people losing hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars, never to be recovered.  At this time if you google "Rush Card Scam" you get 284,000 results.

Also Yahoo Finance did a piece on it and found that it was not a good deal for consumers.  Rush Card has also been investigated for alleged hidden fees.

Mind you, this is a card marketed towards low income African Americans out there.  Surely there are White people who are poor who also got suckered in, but it's a predominantly African American base that he is marketing this to. It was advertised heavily on BET late nights, and during commercial breaks of urban sitcoms like In The House and Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  The big selling point was that it was supposed to be an affordable pre-paid debit card that people could use, who weren't able to qualify for a regular credit card, or who perhaps didn't have a bank account.

Ryan Mack wrote an excellent piece on Huffington Post back in 2009 imploring Russell to stop pushing these cards, and he illustrated on there why the Rush Card, which is advertised as having low fees compared to a bank account debit card, is actually worse and more expensive than an actual bank debit card:

The typical bank offers free debit cards that if used properly do not have any fees affiliated with them and can be used for the same purpose as the pre-paid debit cards.
If we compare the fees affiliated with the Rushcard compared to the typical bank offered debit card, we can clearly see the advantage of the cards offered by the banking institutions.

Rushcard vs. Typical Bank Card
Activation Fee: Rushcard = $19.95 Typical Bank Card = Free
Convenience Fee: Rushcard = $1.00 Typical Bank Card = Free
ATM Cash Withdrawal: Rushcard = $1.95 Typical Bank Card = Free (At Branch) ATM Balance Inquiry: Rushcard = $.50 Typical Bank Card = Free
Bill Payment: Rushcard = $1.00 Typical Bank Card = Free
Inactivity: Rushcard = $2.95 Typical Bank Card = Free
Refund of Rushcard/Bank Card via Check: Rushcard = $5.00 Typical Bank Card = Free 
As you see, there is no financial reason for one to choose the Rushcard over a typical banking institution which offers debit cards as a part of their services. With the continuous onslaught of technology, it is becoming increasingly easier to open bank accounts. 

So as you can see, there is no legitimate reason for someone to get a Rush Card.  There are plenty of pre-paid debit cards out there that don't charge ridiculous fees (often hidden) and don't prey on the most vulnerable of our society.

Then there's the situation where a television show that he is probably most associated with, Def Comedy Jam.  Airing on HBO in it's original run from 1992-1997, the show is responsible for launching a lot of comedians into the public eye, such as Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, Guy Torry, Chris Tucker, DL Hughley and Cedric The Entertainer among many others.

However it was also well known for vulgar race based humor and incredibly explicit misogynistic jokes.  This is what Russell Simmons made money from.  This is what he would walk out on stage at the end of the show and say "Thank you for coming, GOD BLESS, and good night."

So when he tweets out a link to a "Harriet Tubman Sex Tape" and tweets that it's "the most hilarious thing I've ever seen", at first I was outraged and shocked which led to my initial tweet of "I lost all respect for you".  However after thinking about it, and thinking about Simmon's history, I'm still outraged and shocked, but there's more context there, and I think that he's always sort of had a bad track record as it relates to the treatment of Black women.

Whether it was the Def Comedy Jam misogyny, or his constant defense of hip hop artists that use misogynistic and sexist (often violently so) lyrics, as "poets" who are "Speaking the truth", and now this, I think it's time for "Uncle Rush" to acknowledge that he has a serious issue that he has to acknowledge and deal with.


He's done a lot of good in his life.  In Hip Hop he's a legend due to his work with Run DMC.  No one can take that away from him.  He's been strong on some progressive issues.  However, this is beyond the pale and will, rightly or wrongly, impact his entire legacy now.

Years from now people will be like "Yeah, dude was one of the legends of hip hop, man. Run DMC!  Oh man, remember when he posted that video about Harriet Tubman getting raped?"

That's gonna follow him for the rest of his life now, and it's going to be a part of just about any article about him going forward, particularly if it relates to women's rights, especially the rights of African American women.

He's disappointed a lot of people that believed in him.   He's going to have to work to get that back and there are many who will never give him another chance.

I just think it's a shame that it took THIS to get people to open their eyes to the damage that man has done.  No amount of Run DMC classics will ever drown out the misogynistic hatred that he unleashed onto the internet yesterday.

Oh and one final note, to the "actor" who played the Slave Master, comedian Jason Horton tweeted out (in a now deleted tweet) that his good friend Questlove had tweeted about his video. Wasn't that something to be proud of???  Yay, Questlove tweeted about you!  Yeah, asshole, he was tweeting incredulously at the sheer balls it takes to make a video like that.

This is the kinda mentality that too many cats have today.  Any publicity is good publicity.  People "hating" on me?  That's only because they a bunch of Mad Rappers and they know I'm the best!  They just HATERS, is all.

Or, as this dumbshit Horton seems to think "hey, Questlove mentioned me! How cool!" without even realizing that it wasn't for something positive.

I mean if someone I liked retweeted me and was like "look what this dumbass wrote!" I wouldn't be RT'ing it and shouting it out like I was proud of it.

I dunno, man.  This day is just starting, I haven't even slept yet, and I'm finally done with this post on the fuckery that is Russell Simmons.

Must be Thursday.

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