Dear Jason (@Jason_Horton), AKA “the world’s only white male comedian”; AKA the man who played the slave master rapist in ‘Harriet Tubman Sex Tape.’
How does it feel to be part of one the most vile videos I have seen in a long time. Spare me your explanations about comedy and satire. You participation (your role) and the video itself are all about as funny as Paula Deen and Rush Limbaugh. Your Los Angeles address and hipster jeans don’t mean anything to me. I cannot see into your heart, but your “work” tells me something. I see a video that perpetuates racism, sexism, and violence. It traffics in dehumanizing images, finding pleasure in other’s pain. I see you and your partners in moral crime (Simmons and others who made this video deserve plenty of criticism and condemnation – go here and here and take a read and then come back to reflect on your own responsibilities) as merely recycling ideas that have for centuries justified black suffering, sexual violence directed at black women, and enslavement.
I know the satire argument is coming, but it’s not funny, it’s not satire (what are you satirizing? toward what end?) and if you think that is funny, what does that say. What does it say that you were willing to be a piece that feels like a remake of Birth of a Nation. This slavery porn pathologizes black bodies, renders them as objects of ridicule and violence.
Jason, you once noted “I also grew up in the punk rock/hardcore rebellious culture. I really have a similar mentality when it comes to comedy. I think comedy should be dangerous.” What is dangerous about reinforcing many centuries of white supremacy? What is dangerous in perpetuating stereotypes about oversexed black women seducing their white masters? What is dangerous in profiting and relishing off black death? Stereotypes?
You seem very invested in positioning yourself as cutting edge, as new, and as hip? Congratulations, you just participated in a video that would make D.W. Griffith proud. You just acted in video that seems to have taken cues from some of America’s most racist forms of popular culture. Cutting edge is not 19th century minstrelsy. Is that what you call hip? Is that what cutting edge looks like to you? In your eyes, would Thomas Dixon be a cutting edge writer; would bull connor be a cutting edge police man; George Wallace an edgy politician; would Henry Ford be a cutting edge business man?
I imagine you think this video is funny – what is funny about slavery, about rape, about the thousands of black men and women, beaten, brutalized, and enslaved at the hands of people who look you and me. I predict that you think it’s just a “joke,” but maybe that’s because the “joke” isn’t about you, isn’t about your family and community.
The mere idea that anyone could find humor here is the ultimate expression of privilege – male privilege, white privilege. Is it easy to reenact rape, to mock black suffering and death, from a distance? How can you not feel the anguish and pain resulting from your participation and that pain is not just in history but evident today?
Can you name 5 things about Tubman (or even slavery); maybe if you spent less time making infantile YouTube videos and more time reading, you would have known better. But your lack of knowledge aint my concern. Your participation in this video is reprehensible; your participation is a sign of disrespect and ignorance about Harriet Tubman; you have spit on her life and legacy, her struggle for freedom and justice.
In case you get some time, I encourage you to read about Tubman, about slavery, and about the history of rape and lynchings. Trying something else cutting edge – intelligence, knowledge. Try studying and you might learn about the history of black resistance in the face of white supremacy in all its forms. As I am not sure if you will open a book, at least read this brief summary of Tubman’s life from @prisonculture
Araminta Ross (Harriet Tubman) became a “slave for hire” at the age of 5. She did domestic work, field work, cared for children…She once said that one of her mistresses would savagely whip her almost every day, first thing in the AM. When she was teenager, she stood before an overseer who was in pursuit of another slave. He took a lead weight & crashed it on her head. She was deeply wounded. She said that the blow “broke her skull.” She was carried back bleeding. She had no bed. They lay her on the floor. She was sent back to her parents who thought she would die. She survived. She went on to become Harriet Tubman. She freed slaves daringly & without fear. This is the person who @UncleRUSH laughed.
That is the person you mocked; that is the person you disparaged; that is the person whose community you enacted violence on today; that is the person you pretended to rape. Read it again. Learn about the “Moses of her people”
You have said very little since the release of your historic porn. But I can hear the defense of this video and its participants.
Ignorance is not a defense. And “I am sorry if I hurt your feelings” is not an apology. The ability to be ignorant, to be unaware of the history and consequences of racial bigotry, and misogyny, to simply do as one pleases, is a quintessential definition of privilege. The ability to disparage, to demonize, to ridicule, and to engage in racially hurtful practices from the comfort of one’s YouTube channel, from one’s segregated neighborhood, from one’s hipster enclave reflects both privilege and power. If you refuse to see, think, or feel outside your own experiences you are merely cashing in on those privileges. At whose expense?
The ability to blame others for being oversensitive, for playing the race card, or for making much ado about nothing are privileges codified structurally and culturally. Jokes about slavery, about sexual violence, about rape, about a history of white supremacy, about Harriett Tubman, are never a neutral form of entertainment, but loaded sites for the production of damaging stereotypes and violent images.
How about you take some responsibility and condemn yourself for being part of this video; now that would be cutting edge?
Post Script – In addition to the articles above, I encourage any to read Kimberly Foster’s Twitter timeline, this piece by Jamilah King, and this from K Lynn Dreher
Please also read this important contextual piece at Feminist Wire.
Apologies for few typos/errors in original post and getting Mr Horton’s first name wrong. Should be all corrected now