If you’ve been on Twitter in the last 24 hours, you might have noticed something interesting — “Harriet Tubman” is trending. Why? The famous abolitionist, who escaped from slavery and then helped over 300 other slaves escape using the Underground Railroad, was the subject of a “spoof” video that was posted to Russell Simmons’ new All Def Digital YouTube channel yesterday. “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” features YouTube actress Shanna Malcolm, as Tubman, having sex with her white “Massa” (master) while a fellow slave records the encounter to use as blackmail, so that Tubman can run the Underground Railroad.
“This our only chance to getting freedoms,” Malcolm, as Tubman, tells her fellow slave.
Yesterday, Simmons promoted the video on Twitter, describing it as “the funniest thing I’ve ever seen,” but the backlash was swift and fierce, and Tubman’s name started to trend as critics expressed their outrage that the video desecrated the abolitionist’s memory, and made light of the rampant rape and sexual abuse that went on during slavery. Eventually Simmons pulled the video from YouTube and posted an apology of sorts to his website Global Grind. Critics, including the NAACP, said the video
“Not only did that video hypersexualize an icon and hero,” wrote Kimberly N. Foster. “It made light of the constant rape and sexual abuse of enslaved women.”
Late last night, Simmons pulled the video and tweeted, “I get it and I respect it. The Harriet Tubman video has been removed…” linking out to a longer apology on Global Grind.
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.