Opinion: Columnists

Memo to Russell Simmons: Stay out of Harriet Tubman's bedroom

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Gregory Kane,Columnists,Analysis,History,Martin Luther King,Media

It’s not often black liberals combine nastiness and silliness into one neat package, but music mogul Russell Simmons managed to turn the trick.

The nastiness Simmons directed at CNN on-air personality Don Lemon; the silliness Simmons reserved for abolitionist icon and bona fide American heroine Harriet Tubman.

How did Lemon offend Simmons (and other black liberals and so-called progressives)? A while back, Lemon gave these five suggestions to black American men:

» Stop wearing sagging pants.

» Stop saying the n-word.

» Stop littering.

» Finish high school.

» Have fewer children out of wedlock.

The reaction was as if, well, as if Lemon had just dissed Harriet Tubman. But it would take Simmons to do that, later.

Simmons, being a black liberal, couldn’t resist attacking Lemon without dragging slavery into the discussion. After calling Lemon a “slave,” Simmons sent out these tweets, all attacking Lemon for what he had said.

“The nucleus of all revolution lies in youth culture. If I was young, my pants would be saggin.”

“Don Lemon conservatives love when we blame ourselves for the condition of the community. You do disservice to black community.”

“Hip hop language and clothes are expressions of frustration w/the status quo, your a dangerous talking head just read the news.”

“Saggy pants are no different from afros or darshikis or platform shoes they didn’t destroy the fabric of the black community.”

“40 years of locking up diseased people educating them in criminal behavior and putting them back in hood w/out chance of employment did.”

“# 1 enemy of black America has been war on drugs.”

"Your” for “you’re”? “Darshikis” for dashikis? It’s a cinch that Simmons was no whiz kid in English class when he was in school.

Once again I’m compelled to point out to a black liberal that the percentage of black people that are in jail or prison – for drugs or anything else – is a piddling two percent.

The other 98 percent of us are law-abiding citizens.

Simmons can’t see that; nor can he see why a Harriet Tubman “parody” that posted on his You Tube channel All Def Digital wasn’t the least bit funny.

In the “parody,” Tubman has sex with the slave master, the better to blackmail him into freeing slaves.

When the video ran on All Def Digital, Simmons thought it was oh-so-hilarious. That was before the grits hit the fan and people started protesting.

Simmons had the video removed, but reluctantly. He was still insisting about a week later that the parody was funny.

“I thought the slave took advantage of and blackmailed the slave master,” Simmons said in a Huffington Post interview. “I didn’t understand the clip as being nothing but her taking advantage of the slave master.”

There’s much Simmons doesn’t understand, not the least of which is the life of Harriet Tubman. She was a woman who, after escaping slavery herself, returned to Maryland’s Eastern Shore dozens of times to lead other slaves north to freedom.

She had to take slaves to safe houses, arrange for their travel to Canada so they could escape the clutches of the Fugitive Slave Law, and sometimes pay to make those arrangements.

Tubman spent some of her summers working in Cape May, N.J., to help finance her liberation trips to the Eastern Shore.

Tubman’s work – helping slaves escape via the Underground Railroad – was a serious, dangerous business. And, for our information, Mr. Simmons: THERE WAS NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT IT.

The sex life of Harriet Tubman was not a proper vehicle for parody, satire or humor. If Simmons can’t understand that, how can we take seriously anything else the man says?

GREGORY KANE, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.
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Gregory Kane

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The Washington Examiner