How One 3 Minute Video Pushed Me into the Arms of the GOP

Once upon a time in this country we call America, there was an institution called slavery. You may have heard of it; horrible thing it was… race based slavery. Within this institution, some of the most appalling and harrowing atrocities were meted out against people – men, women AND children – of African descent. We often like to package these atrocities into neat little bites for quick consumption when we talk about slavery.

Torture.

Rape.

Severing family ties.

But until you’ve filled your head with slave accounts wherein a woman describes how a fellow slave had to suckle her child because their master’s dogs ripped her breasts off her flesh when she tried to escape, or how a man had his right eye plucked out for talking back to an overseer, or how a boy as young as 8 was whipped within an inch of his life for not moving fast enough on the plantation, you don’t really get a sense of the “hell” that slavery was.

PNP248885Within this institution we know as slavery, Black men, women and children were powerless. Any hint of resistance was quickly quelled with brute force. This was re-enforced with beguiling words from scripture which said only good slaves – slaves who offered complete fealty to their masters – would please God and therefore enter into heaven. Heaven was the only escape a slave could hope for. Many a spiritual hymnal sung in the fields spoke of Heaven, freedom and going “home”. And yet, some dared to resist. We know a few of their names: Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth. There are hundreds of other renegade slaves who fled hell on earth ,whose names we will never know. But these we do know, and they are revered to us.

This is why what Russell Simmons did is so shocking.

I have made no secret of my admiration for Harriet Tubman, and this whole affair has caused me to see her life through new eyes. Just like the murder of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman’s eventual acquittal for that murder caused me to see America in a new light, so do I see my Black community differently.

When I think about Harriet Tubman, I think about a little girl who was hired out to work at age 5. She was routinely beaten by the woman who ‘rented’ her as a child. In fact, Harriet said the first thing her White mistress would do in the morning was beat her. How awful, I thought… but never once did I consider how Harriet’s own mother and father must have felt about this. To have your child taken away from you to toil and have her returned whipped and scarred – and have absolutely no power to say anything about it. Not a mumbling word in protest.

We do know that Harriet had several of her sisters sold away from the family, and when a slaver came to take her brother, her mother stood at the door with an axe vowing to bury it into the head of anyone who came into the cabin to take her son away. There was no sale that day or any thereafter. This was the first act of resistance that Harriet witnessed, she later narrated. It ignited the flame for what would become a life-long passion for the cause of freedom and equality.

As far as we know, Harriet Tubman did not suffer any sexual abuse, although she was routinely physically punished. Her master lobbed an iron weight at her head and cracked her skull; when she became ill she was not provided medical treatment; she was whipped. All along, her parents were powerless to whisk her away from the harmful and dreadful life she was born into. Like all Black men in that time, her father would have been unable to protect or repulse any White man who violated his wife or child. All he could do was stand and watch. I can’t imagine how her father must have felt. It was well documented that he loved his little girl very much. But thank God, at least she was spared the violation and anguish that comes with being sexually assaulted.

Until last week, of course. Because that was when Russell Simmons and his team decided to rape Harriet Tubman. You know my feelings on this. I won’t rehash them.

What was shocking to me following this incident was Russell Simmons’ glib and arrogant response to the entire series of events. What was further appalling was the virtual silence from our “Black leadership”. There was no public word of reprimand. No call for a summit on Black gender relations. No overt expression of dismay that a 57 year old Black man would do such a thing and call it “the funniest thing” he’d ever seen. Instead, there was a hallow echo of some surreptitiously sent email advising Russell Simmons to take down the video and apologize. Here at last was an opportunity for Black men to stand up and protect the virtue of Black women, and they chose to hide and say NOTHING. As far as I can tell, only Spike Lee had the guts to publicly condemn Russell Simmons, who in turn insulted the Oscar winning film-maker by saying “maybe he should spend less energy condemning me and work on making a decent film”. Arrogant prick.

When something this painful happens, and I am pained by what Simmons and his political/celebrity cohorts have done, it changes who you are. It changes how you think. It changes how you see people. And I have begun to wonder: have my allegiances, fleeting as they may at times be, been misplaced all this while? I tend to vote where my conscience leads me, and the Black leadership has made it abundantly clear that my conscience should lead me to vote Democrat and liberal ideals. Of course I don’t always do so, but I have adhered in the past. But why should I going forward? What objectives have the male, Black establishment laid out for women like me? Women who are college educated, well-travelled, world view minded, who conceive and keep their babies? Unlike many of my less fortunate sisters for whom the government is both father and husband, I have no need for many of the social programs that the liberal wing of our government hands out as a carrot. What is in it for me? Why should I support a group of people who does not support or protect MY womanhood?

This is why I say and ask this: In his ‘apology’, Russell Simmons said he is “a very liberal person with thick skin” and it’s hard to offend him. I look at this man, I look at his life and I see the roots of a pathology that has plagued my entire existence. With that one sentence, he instilled in me a very real need to vote Republican in the next election. I am saying this openly: I don’t care who the next Republican candidate is or what he/she stands for; I’m voting for them.

Russell Simmons and men of his ilk have built their fortunes on the naked, wiggling backsides of brown girls like me for the last 30 years. Somehow, he managed to convince just enough esteem-deprived sistahs that using their sexuality would help them get their “power back”. Tell me then – how many of these now-called video bitches and ho’s have gone on to become high powered CEOs, or start their own ventures, or even wind up as directors of anything within the Simmons empire? I’ll wait while you scramble for an answer.

It makes sense that Russell did not see anything wrong with this tragic attempt at comedy at first glance. He hasn’t had an authentic relationship with a Black woman since he wriggled his way out of his mother’s vagina. Mr. Simmons helped to create an entire culture that has destroyed the fabric of the Black family and community in the name of “free expression”. Whenever I hear a Black woman being called a “bitch”, it’s from liberal lips. Whenever I see a Black woman being chased down the street and hit, it’s from “thick skinned” hands. Whenever I see a dude hanging out on the corner pretending to be a rapper instead of being at home pretending to be a dad, the actions are being carried out by some guy who it’s “difficult to offend” (read: he doesn’t give a f*ck).

latifahAnd these are the people the NAACP throws their weight behind? This is the type of man whom our leadership circles its wagons around? This is the political ally of the liberal establishment?!This is an  architect of a culture so abusive towards women that Queen Latifah was compelled to pen U.N.I.T.Y in which she incredulously  (and angrily) asked “who you callin’ a b*tch?!?” in retort. This brand of hostility was so new to us! Who knew the day would come when being called a b*tch would be the so common place it hardly causes one to flinch.

Even Tavis Smiley – whom I respect greatly – had nothing to say publicly on the issue! But hey, as Michael Skolnik says, Uncle Rush has a “good heart”… which all, I suppose, it takes these days to be forgiven for assassinating and defiling a (black) woman’s character. You just have to have a “good heart” and fund raise for a couple of charities. I have already sent my apologies to Mitt Romney and Rush Limbaugh on behalf on the entire Black race – for they too I am sure are men who harbor “good hearts”.

My mother-in-law and a few others say I am being too hasty in this decision to turn my back on Black leadership for the short term, but I am resolute that I must be wooed back to center. “Give it time,” she says. “This is just one instance!”

Not for me. I’m 35, and my entire adult life has been marked by a culture that denigrates Black women, openly and unabashedly. I can’t think of another American art form that disrespects its women the way hip hop does. Not country. Not pop. Not rock. Not nuthin’. For me, this isn’t “one instance”; it’s the final straw.

Now, at least with the GOP I know what I’m getting into. There are certain tactics and behaviors I can expect from them. What I don’t expect is the same treatment in a different form. I’m tired of choosing between the lesser of two evils. If I must choose evil, I elect evil outright! I’d rather be mauled by a lion in the open savannah than bitten by a snake slithering in the brush behind me. And that’s exactly what Russell Simmons is – a snake – and his “buddies” at the NAACP are equally serpentine.

Holla at your girl when you collectively grow a pair; but in this moment, you just lost one.  I wonder what life as an openly Black Republican will be like?

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14 responses to “How One 3 Minute Video Pushed Me into the Arms of the GOP

  1. Good Lord! Get over it already.
    It’s either one long joke of a post that’s entirely gone over my head or you seem to care too much about other people’s reactions.

    Your disgust at the joke has been well noted. So have other people’s non-chalance about it.

    This threat of voting Republican is akin to a threat of suicide if you don’t get your way. Others have opinions about this that are very different from yours and you might want to acknowledge that.

    If you were gonna threaten voting something else, shouldn’t it be something really scary? Republicans have already been unleashed on the world many times before.

    Calm down dear, it’s only a bad joke.

    • Oh here it is. “Calm down”. All that’s missing is the patronizing “dear” that usually accompanies it. This is not female hysteria, Paa KOTI, it’s a conscious choice to turn coat on a group of men who don’t get it… including you. You’ve already proven to be purposely obtuse on the matter.

      I’m not going to calm down, and I’m not going to stop talking about this until I’m good and ready. However, you do have a couple if options: unfollow me or stop reading my blog. Telling me that my “disgust is noted” and to get over it are not an option. You, on the other hand, can go straight to hell.

    • To tell her to calm down or that it was a “bad joke” is ridiculous. If this video were of not just a black man in history but any black man in general getting lynched, there would have been an uproar! Yet, because this was “a joke” of Harriet Tubman, a woman who could have very well freed your ancestors, being defiled and demeaned it’s okay??
      ( Oh this misogynistic culture in which my heart is bound, due solely to my skin color). I myself am not ashamed, but you along with Mr. Simmons and anyone else who found this amusing, very well should be.

  2. Lol… all points above noted.
    I’ll make it a point to comment on your blog posts only when I agree with you as it looks like you cant see things any other way but yours.

    On the scale of how people are allowed to feel about this, it looks like it’s either bleeding heart or purposely obtuse.

    Bye

  3. Dear Malaka,

    It is a shame that this is the same Russell Simmons who only a few weeks ago dragged Don Lemon to the gallows for challenging the way African Americans deign to project themselves with negative and insalubrious stereotypes of expression.

    Juxtaposing that with this Harriet Tubman episode just shows the kind of hypocrisy our so-called black leadership exhibits without the clear ability to face the truth and facts.

    There is too much to write about events within Black American culture, but since I don’t live there, my observation is more needs to be done to call out all wrongs, regardless of who has done so, most especially, Russell Simmons.

    I am with you all the way with your views on this issue.

    • Ei.

      Give me a minute to get over the shock of YOU agreeing with ME.

      ***a minute later***

      Nope. Still nothing. But I will say that your opinion is valuable BECAUSE you don’t live here. Objectivity and all that. And whether you agreed with me or not, I’m happy you shared it. Thank you.

      We’ve butted heads in the past and stood our ground, so this all weird to me now…

  4. You have done VERY well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article & I love how you’ve not been coerced or cajoled to ‘get over it’ & ‘calm down’. In fact, I wish more black female bloggers did the same. Yesterday, it was Rick Ross rapping about raping a drunk woman, Today it’s Russell Simmons producing a video demeaning one of the most respectable women in history (not just in black history, Harriet was so much admired that even WHITE women invited her to speak at a suffrage event). Who knows what will be done tomorrow if we keep quiet & don’t protest? That said, I think you’ve made a wise decision NOT to vote for anyone because any leadership said anything. Look, I’m very cynical about these ‘movements’, leaders and all that. Black people have voted several times for a particular party & what has that party done for them? Black women keep supporting ‘the feminist movement’ but look how quiet they are any time a black woman is demeaned. Black women support Black men with all they’ve got, go on marches when black men are shot down, frisked by police etc. & today see how well black men are ‘thanking’ us. So my dear, go ahead & vote for the GOP, I support you 287% (i have no idea why i used that number lol).

    • Thank you, Ekuba. The way the words “get over it” grate on my nerves, eh? They are second dumbest set of words strung together after “well, I pulled out…”

      I watched The Butler yesterday evening for the first time. The opening scene in the movie brought this entire kerfuffle back into my mind. Without spoiling it, all I want is for Black men with power to speak UP. Not die for us… just bloody speak up! What the Black patriarchal leadership did by refusing to publicly reprimand this man is deplorable. I owe them no allegiance or support.

      Nevertheless, I will always fight to protect our sons and daughters equally.

  5. Hi Malaka,

    I just finished a stint in a few countries in South East Asia. In Malaysia I encountered a number of men who told me that black women in Malaysia were only there to work as prostitutes – in their minds that’s all we’re capable of doing. When I explored this concept, I discovered that its roots lay in media representation of black women, especially those darn 21st century hip hop/rap and R&B videos and ridiculous ‘black american’ movies – the ones that display dysfunction and stereotypes to the hilt.
    This point was in underscored by a trip to Burma/Myanmar where I was sexually propositioned by three men (three separate occasions) while out on the street, twice in broad daylight and once during an evening stroll. A conversation with a street vendor, male aged about mid twenties provided insight – he compared me to a sexually explicit (in demeanor, lyrics and videos) american based Caribbean female artist both in looks and demeanor even after I emphasized my African roots and heritage. Not many Burmese people have had the privilege of interacting with African (or read as black) people ergo they develop their perceptions from the media and due to great (and deliberate) media messaging; video vixens (aka whores/sluts), hyper-sexual scantily dressed black women represent black women among certain male demographics in Burma and other parts of Asia. It was a sobering moment.
    People like Russell Simmons, R Kelly and the whole cohort of men who call themselves rappers and hip hop artists have ensured this detrimental and dysfunctional representation of black women. But I wonder when we women are going going to wise up and say ‘no more’ – when will we understand that surrounding a black man in a video wearing a bikini barely concealing one’s breasts, pubic area and derriere is not a celebration of the beauty or sexuality of black women especially not when said male calls black women including you in the video; a b****h, whore and every sexually degrading name in the lyrics. Note also, said males are often appropriately dressed or covered up while the black women are over-exposed. When will women stop showing up for casting calls and defending such putrid behaviour, even in the name of amassing ‘Benjamin’s’? I digress.
    I understand your anger, I feel it too. I haven’t voluntarily listened to American hip hop/rap and R&B in two years and personally Russell Simmons is irrelevant. Maybe when someone films a three minute video debasing his precious two daughters it’ll be a whole different matter. I decided to ignore and boycott him and his cohorts by not listening to or buying their music and not spending money on anything that has their names attached.

    • Hey Saffron! You’ve followed me from the other side eh?

      Wowww…

      I wish I could say I wasn’t shocked, but I am. To know that our reputation as a race of women is SO sullied as to reach Burma is astounding. Burma???

      I was propositioned by a Mexican man once. I just laughed. I had no idea what was driving him, but to know that the media representation is so formidable that it can embolden a Thai/Burmese/Mexican to proposition ANY black woman for sex because that’s all that Black men via their videos and movies has told them is heart rending. Thank you so much for sharing.

      And I agree with you that our women need to take some responsibility for this as well and stop showing up for casting calls. Someone needs to tell Laurence Fishbourne’s precious little girl that she is no Kim Kardashian. She will never receive the benefits and accolades that KK has for lying on her back and spreading it for the camera. We just got the “n” capitalized in Negro… ain’t overcome just yet!

      • I’ve been reading your blog for almost two years although I’ve been inactive in the comments section. I enjoy your writing and perspectives on various issues.

        I recall reading about Laurence Fishbourne’s daughter with a sense of apprehension and a shattered heart. That is a (near) perfect example of a young women who had access to the relevant networks, hobnobs, hot shots, movers & shakers of the movie industry and yet she squandered the opportunity. I understand that it is difficult to attain success in hollywood as a black woman who lacks ethnic ambiguity or obvious & traceable white lineage and I understand that she may have wanted to make a name for herself independent of her father and his legacy but she played staright into the ‘jezebel’/lascivious stereotype attached to black women (even in the name of empowering herself), that’s a game no black woman not even the daughter of Laurence Fishbourne can win.

        There are various avenues she could have applied her ‘skills’ to such as musical theatre/broadway, dance, directing/production (if she doesn’t mind being behind the camera).

        Off topic slightly – after reading about and observing the representation of black women in mainstream media over the last year; I’ve been struck (in a way I haven’t been concious of before) by the lack of relatable black women in the western movies, media (e.g. news anchors) and music as well as by the misrepresentation of black women in western music, movies and media. I mention western as opposed to Nollywood and African because significant numbers of young people focus on the West or America (a successful monopoly of transmission of culture by hollywood and MTV) and in some cases France for role models and inspiration.
        In my conversations with young girls or in eavesdropping on the conversations of young girls in various parts of Africa; I’ve realised most of them miss the nuances of media (mis)representation (or lack thereof) of black women and they embrace the hypersexuality without understanding it or how to use it; they embrace the lifestyles Kim Kardashian & Miley Cyrus represent without understanding that most of it is staged, scripted and screen play – to sell something and the races of the women provide a privilege and protection not afforded to most black women anywhere.

        Girls gyrating their hips to Lil Wayne or R Kelly’s profanity (directed at them) or doing some form of twerking without comprehending the history and implications of the dance. I ask myself – how did we get here? And more importantly how do we move beyond this and raise aware and concious girls, women, boys and men who refuse to embrace the misogyny that is rap, hip hop or R&B and the lack of or misrepresentation of black women in the media. Girls, women, boys and men capable of countering the negatives with workable solutions; whether it’s making movies, music, telling newsworthy stories that cast women in a realistic light or as princesses and queens that walk on air and making these narratives appeal to the target audience – so that people like Russell Simmons can develop that ‘sensitive chip’ and so that men like Russell Simmons will know that they target black women to their financial peril – it only hurts when it hits their pockets and portfolios because I’ve learned they have no conscience when it comes to black women.

  6. Malaka,
    I’ve just stumbled upon your blog and I’m so grateful you wrote this article. I am a white, homeschooling mom who has just finished a study on Harriet Tubman with my kids. I had studied her when I was 12 (I attended a public school) but the research was on my own and honestly, didn’t soak in too much. (What does soak in at 12? I was too concerned with boys and bras that year.) Anyway, after this month long study – I am aghast at why she is not a mandatory study in EVERY public school across this land!? She is my #1 woman hero! I don’t need to tell you how incredible she is but studying her has changed my life, my perspective on how important it is to stand up for what is the right and moral in this life. I shudder to think if she had shrunk in the face of fear or of evil…what if? How many lives she touched and continues to bless!! Every child – boy and girl – black and white – needs to know about Harriet and her unwavering moral courage! And to see that having moral courage has its effects – its long lasting beauty in freedom for all! I think of Abe Lincoln who met and supported Harriet and how she became a spy for the Union Army! Her fight was righteous! This woman was a WOMAN!!! It gives me goose-bumps just thinking and writing about her. And because of her example, I examine my life and see where I can step up and speak out when I see injustice – just as you have done here! God bless you for taking a stand. It’s women like YOU that Harriet fought and won and I’m grateful for YOUR example! Regardless of our color – freedom is the mission. And when people like Simmons trample and spit on on that freedom – a freedom we’ve been fighting for for hundreds of years – I’m thrilled you have spoken up! Carry on, friend!

    • Well hey there sister soldier!

      First, let me say keep up the good fight. Homeschooling is NO easy task, and I am SUCH an admirer of parents who can commit to it. You have total respect! I agree with you wholeheartedly: we do need to have a more holistic view and teaching of American history. There are so many contributions that have been made by African American, Hispanic, and Asian Americans that have yet to be told or celebrated and it’s a shame! God bless you as well, and take care of those beautiful little sprouts. :)

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