I wasn’t going to respond to the whole Russell Simmons “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” thing, but face it. This has been a hell of a week for black women and just all around. #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen. Egypt. Kal Penn. I was so proud at the beginning of the week to see so many black women bringing to light the issues of intersectionality we face only to get this very stark example of why these conversations were needed in the first place.
I will admit that I never watched the video. Seriously, some things you can just look at the name and know that no good can come of it. I know it seems counterproductive or even just stupid for someone who is a media scholar to not consume the media I once critiqued. However, part of the reason I am selective about what I do and do not watch is because I have to provide my own care. There is no one here to hold my hand and give me comfort when I come across something meant to crush my very soul. Besides, I pay attention to a lot of very wise and intelligent black women who did grit their teeth and watch it and they are doing a superb job taking down Russell Simmons in social media and on blogs such as this one.
However, I did want to say this: I was over Russell Simmons a long time ago. I let him go when I discovered that it was his and Rick Rubin’s idea to make rap music about (white) youth and take away the “blackness.” I knew I made the right decision years ago when a friend of mine deeply involved in hip hop communities talked about an encounter a friend of hers had with Simmons that demonstrated he cannot handle a black woman who calls him on his misogynoir. Seriously, the man pretended to play with his phone when he saw her approaching him rather than risk engaging in meaningful conversation with her.
I learned years ago that Simmons has absolutely no regard or love for black women. For all his success, he was perfectly happy to do it off the backs of black women including his ex-wife (then discarded her to trade her in for a “better” model). I am not impressed with Simmons’ achievements in any aspects of pop culture. Now his greenlighting of a disgrace that makes light of the life of one of the only black women I had the privilege of learning about in grade school just reminds me of what I always knew about him.
The sad thing is Simmons is only a small part of the problem. He is one cog in the system that seeks to keep anyone from seeing black women and equating that with human being. What makes people like Simmons so dangerous is that they have a much larger platform and longer reach than the women who do the hard work every day to undo the damage those like Simmons continues to perpetuate.
This is what hurts so much about knowing that he and an entire team of people decided that “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” would be a good idea. It’s like the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen conversations meant nothing to them. And they didn’t. Why listen to the voices of black women saying we are sick and tired of being treated as less than anyone else when it is so much easier to mock us and dismiss us?
This, people, is why I wish I were angrier. This is why I wish I had a job that paid at least $60,000 a year and gave me benefits. I would love to have the time and resources to be on the front lines so that so many of the women I admire had at least one more voice to add to theirs and take away some of the burden from my sisters. I want to carry more of this load, but sometimes it’s difficult when it feels like fighting with windmills. I just have to listen when Huey Freeman asks his grandfather what he should do when there was absolutely nothing he could do. “Do what you can.”