Russell Simmons has apologized for a comedy video commissioned for his new All Def Digital YouTube channel, which depicts Harriet Tubman tricking a slave master into making a sex tape. The video has been taken down from official channels but remains on YouTube. It drew broad condemnation, including from the NAACP. “I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry,” Simmons wrote.
The premise of the video is that Harriet Tubman enlists another slave to record her in coitus with a slave owner in order to blackmail him for her freedom. Before Simmons apologized, he tweeted that the video was the “funniest thing I’ve ever seen,” though that tweet has been deleted.
“Some of the worst slave narratives I ever read were from slaves raped by their masters,” Anthea Butler, associate professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, told msnbc. “And this is not Django Unchained. This is a real person, who suffered real things and freed so many slaves.”
“Rape is not a joke, nor is the sexual violation of African American women by enslavers a punchline,” wrote Crystal Fleming in a Change.org petition that as of this writing was signed by nearly 800 people.
Here’s Simmons’ full apology.
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.
Rebuttals to the parody video were swift on Twitter.