Apology issued by Russell Simmons in response to public backlash regarding the Harriet Tubman piece:
“I’m a very liberal person with thick skin,” wrote Simmons. “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.”
As you already know, you have defiled a great hero and displayed various other insensitivities. No sense in beating a dead horse there, the posting of the video has been attacked enough. Like so many others, I was disturbed by the Harriet Tubman piece, but I feel like it’s your apology that was perhaps the biggest insult of all. Running a close second place to that is the fact that you even thought the video was funny to begin with. With all the insane, creative hilarity that’s happening on the internet, you thought THAT was funny. Wow.
I think when people reach a certain level of celebrity and influence, they can lose touch with how smart everyday people are. Yes, the apology was timely and professional. But it felt insincere and slightly condescending. You barely admitted (if at all) that you did anything wrong in letting this video post under your watch. The undercurrent of your apology was laced with several insults to our collective intelligence. First by stating you’re liberal with thick skin, you’re implying we aren’t open-minded enough to digest your lofty slave jokes. Then by attempting to flip the idea of a crude sex tape into an “outwitting”, you’re implying we missed some clever subtext. Next in the apology, you want us to believe you saw the video and thought it was a great statement about injustice. And finally, “silly you” thought the idea of Harriet Tubman using her body to leverage freedom was “politically correct”. At almost every turn in your apology was a thinly veiled insult, or an admission of obliviousness. And beyond that, it was very short and hollow. In the past when you’ve written open letters to Jay-Z, Kanye and Don Lemmon, your language has been very thoughtful and considerate. Where is that kind of eloquence when it’s time to issue an apology to your many supporters who have been there over the decades?
How about an open letter to the thinking public, instead of just to your fellow elite? A thoughtful letter that really lets us in on what your true intentions are in releasing this kind of content? What is ADD’s mission statement, because this video seemed neither entertaining nor creative. We’ve probably done more for you than Jay-Z, Kanye and Don Lemmon combined. But your tone to us was considerably more dismissive and terse.
I am disappointed with the seeming lack of response from our “leading” hip-hop icons claiming to represent the culture; this rich culture which is rooted in trails that Harriet Tubman helped to blaze. Your peers and fellow pioneers have been disconcertingly quiet about this, which leads me to believe that you aren’t the only one slightly out of touch up there. We love the yoga tweets and philanthropic moves, but what does it all mean when you release something like this and then dish out such a detached apology?
We all make mistakes. How we deal with them shows what we’re really made of. I hope you speak to us more kindly the next time you make a misstep. Please address us with the same spirit of thoughtfulness that you use to address your fellow celebrities. I also hope you curate funnier videos because that one had close to zero comedic value. Please keep up the good work in the areas where you are bringing light into the world, I know you do good works.