Freedom Rider: Sex Tapes and Butlers

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

Racist propaganda comes in many forms, and from many sources. Russell Simmons and Lee Daniels are well-paid Black purveyors of the anti-Black propaganda arts. Daniel’s turns history and truth on its head in The Butler, while Russell Simmons depicts Harriet Tubman as a whore who turns tricks for freedom.


Freedom Rider: Sex Tapes and Butlers

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

The fact that Simmons chose to make Harriet Tubman a character in a porno reveals much about him, his feelings about black people and his high regard of white people.”

On August 14, 2013, Russell Simmons posted these words on twitter: “Funniest thing I’ve ever seen Harriet tubmans [sic] sex diary.” Those are words guaranteed to catch one’s attention, the way a bomb going off gets attention. Simmons wasn’t lying or joking either. His latest entertainment venture, All Def Digital, had in fact produced something he called The Harriet Tubman Sex Tape. For the worst and most despicable reasons possible, Mr. Simmons chose to commit a character assassination of Harriet Tubman, one of the greatest in the pantheon of black American heroes. By extension he defamed not only Tubman, but all black people and perpetrated the worst slanders used against black women. The fact that Simmons chose to make Harriet Tubman a character in a porno reveals much about him, his feelings about black people and his high regard of white people.

One might conclude that Simmons is nothing more than clueless and ignorant of the history of this country and of his people. Yet his treachery shows something far worse than obvious misogyny, self-hatred and stupidity. This so-called parody existed because Simmons determined that the path to success must go straight through the heart of our heritage and bring down a woman whose actions were above reproach. Simmons obviously believes that his success depends on black people being demeaned and willing to laugh about it.

Simmons claims that he wanted to show Tubman “turning the tables” on the slave master. The vulgar and stupid impresario, entrepreneur, mogul doesn’t even know why Harriet Tubman is so revered. By first stealing herself away from the chattel slavery system and then taking hundreds of other people from their slave owners, she turned the tables quite adroitly, all without having sex with anyone. She followed up her individual feats of bravery when she led a Union attack on Confederate forces near the Combahee River in South Carolina in 1863, the only woman to have led an army into battle in the Civil War.

Simmons obviously believes that his success depends on black people being demeaned and willing to laugh about it.“

In Simmons’ turgid imagination, the woman who John Brown referred to as “General Tubman” becomes nothing more than a whore. An enslaved woman had no means by which she might empower herself. She had no control over her body and thus no control over her sexuality. She could be forced to have sex with any white man or even with a black man when slave holders wanted to create more babies and thus more profit. For Harriet Tubman to have overcome these circumstances with her bravery and genius, only to be depicted as a woman who enjoys having sex with her slave holder is the worst thing that any black person might do to her memory.

Black people should have had nothing worse than Russell Simmons to contend with, but he chose to do his dirty work in the same week that another awful depiction was unleashed by Hollywood. Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a train wreck of a film which leaves a bad taste for anyone even dimly aware of the basic facts of American history.

The Butler is a fictionalized account of the life of Eugene Allen, a man who served as a White House butler from the Harry Truman through Ronald Reagan administrations. This story could be interesting on many levels but in the hands of the ham fisted and black hating Daniels the civil rights movement is in the end just a useful backdrop for absolving white people of any guilt.

Daniels does know what makes for an engaging film and it is this skill that makes The Butler so insidious. He cleverly depicts how the lead character, named Cecil Gaines for the purposes of the movie, must escape from the cruelty of Jim Crow era South, where America’s apartheid took shape. Most of the black actors in the film are talented and popular audience favorites. The combination of seeing our experiences validated in an entertaining film guarantees box office success.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a train wreck of a film which leaves a bad taste for anyone even dimly aware of the basic facts of American history.”

It is true to this very day that black people show two faces, or in the case of people like the Gaines character, only one face, not being allowed to be fully human when interacting with white people who have power over them. Having seen lynching and terror, Gaines is fearful for himself and for his son who chooses to be in the forefront of the black freedom movement.

What might have made for an intriguing dynamic is turned into a hodge podge of phony hopefulness about how the “good negro” inspires white people to do the right thing. Movies of course depend on some degree of dramatic license. But it is absurd in the extreme for the Gaines character to literally be serving breakfast to presidents and their top staff people as they discuss what to do in Little Rock, Selma or Birmingham.

Every president in the movie confesses his sins to the magical Cecil and then tries his best to help the Negro. In fact, however much or little any of these presidents did was dependent upon the intensity of the struggle among the masses of people and not by their liking of any domestic worker. Yet the Lee Daniels butler inspires Eisenhower to send troops to integrate Central High School in Little Rock. John F. Kennedy spent most of his term in office looking for ways to placate the Dixiecrats. He and his brother Robert were opposed to the March on Washington and any other actions that might force them to do the right thing. As for the Freedom Riders, Kennedy asked an aide, “Can’t you get your goddamned friends off those buses?” In the end he was forced by the demands made in the streets to finally give a speech in support of a civil rights bill.

The movie does tell some historic truth but with an underlying message that political action is acceptable only within very narrow parameters. The son in the film goes on a journey from the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides to the Black Panthers. Daniels should have just left the Panthers alone instead of depicting them as disrespectful young people who never remove their black berets and give offense at the dinner table. But he couldn’t leave the Panthers alone. If white people can be appeased with the right attitude there is no need for radical politics to be taken seriously. The Black Panthers also have to be brought low in the popular consciousness of a Lee Daniels movie.

Not only are white people made good if the black people around them are silent enough, but the black people in Daniels world don’t amount to much. Their relaxation time is spent drinking and dancing and cheating on their spouses, while at work they tell dirty jokes in mixed company and get angry if a co-worker gets a perk. No wonder white people have to be coaxed into helping them.

Daniels should have just left the Panthers alone instead of depicting them as disrespectful young people who never remove their black berets and give offense at the dinner table.”

They live happily ever after because Barack Obama is elected president of the United States at the movie’s end. All is well in Daniels land where eventually the right kind of protest brings white acceptance and a black face in the highest place.

Lee Daniels and Russell Simmons are also in high places. They get the deals to create images of black life because they can be replied upon to do the right thing by white people. Russell Simmons is a bottom feeder who didn’t even know how to be smooth with his slander. Lee Daniels is made of sterner stuff and knows what black people want to see. We want to see black people on screen who do great things even if it is just getting a raise for the domestic help or sneering at the struggles of young people when they try to change the system.

After being properly scolded for the sex tape horror, Simmons removed the sex tape from his site and now says he has plans to produce biographies of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. He probably has no real interest in doing this but for the sake of argument he must be treated as if he does. He can’t be trusted with our image ever again and must never be allowed to live down this shameful episode.

Daniels will probably get more movie deals and more opportunities to create outwardly uplifting fare that is in reality anything but. He is equally untrustworthy but more dangerous. He is after all the man who gave us Precious.

Black celebrities cannot be given a pass to treat us any way they want but the yearning for black success is still quite strong. As with politicians and other misleaders, they get consideration where none is deserved. Hopefully there will be no more black historical figures in sex tapes or white people being given phony and undue credit, at least not for a while. Two such episodes in one week is simply too much.

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)


Lee Daniels = Precious, Monsters Ball, Now The Butler-

My instincts told me that after Lee Daniels 'Monstrosity at the Ball', & then in collaboration w Mad-Dear, Oprah & Sapphire for [definitely NOT] 'Precious'- that when I saw Oprah hyping 'The Butler' again directed by Lee Daniels- that it was bound to be a slick hot mess. 

I reckoned Jay-Z had little respect for his Black elders when he dissed Harry Belafonte'- but in case there was any doubt- he comes out w this sleazy porno crap RE Harriett 'Lady Moses' Tubman- who Jay-Z ain't even fit to touch the bottom of her shoes- let alone have his name mentioned in the same breath w hers. He's the epitome' of the saying 'A legend in his own little bitty mind'!   

For negroes like Jay-Z, Lee Daniels, Mad-Dear [& even Oprah?]- there's nothing sacred RE Black folks historical experience- especially if by dissing it they can get paid in the process! There's a word for that IE: whoredom!!!

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Racism & Bigotry

is rampant in society today, as it has always been.  I find that people do not want to discuss it as if it doesn't exist.  Current history is presently being revised daily as in Orwell's, 1984. People look at me like I'm crazy.  They want to change the subject.  Even beat down black people have given up.  They know, I reckon, there is no hope.

So, to Ms. Kimberley, Glen, Ms. Bailey and Bruce, and everyone at BAR, thank you, for caring and keepin' on for the "least of these".  

Life is so screwed up with misery, hypocrisy and worshipping at the idol of money.

I saw yesterday where the original "Dream" speech was offered to the King family for their use, if they would certify and declare openly that George Raveling was the owner of the document.  They could not agree and this obviously tells anyone that the King family is a joke that only thinks about money.

Lee Daniels' The Butler

Hey Margaret I saw "The Butler" Friday and don't really agree with your assessment of it being a film about how the “good negro” inspires white people to do the right thing.  The most important message this film sends is how much more powerful private interests are than U.S. presidents.  None of the presidents ended up hiring the character Cecil (played well by Forest Whitaker), only the racist hotel owner R.D. Warner (played skillfully by John Gleason).  While the film shows a sympathetic look at each of the presidents that Cecil served, it showed a very unsympathetic and realistic look at the private interest in Warner who turns a blind eye to Cecil's decision to leave his job over Warner's racist decision to turn a blind eye and not to pay Black workers more.  When Cecil tells him that he will leave unless Black workers are paid more, Warner tells him to leave and refuses to pay Black workers more.  We see this kind of racism in the privatization of education that disproportionately affects Black workers.  Private interests like Bill Gates are turning a blind eye.  Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates are the R.D. Warners of today.  They begin powerful at the beginning of the film and at the end of the film they remain powerful.  At the end, the film does make a strong endorsement of Obama's presidency, but this was true to Eugene Allen who after seeing so much in one generation, was in reality very supportive of Obama.  I don't think Lee Daniels was intentionally endorsing Obama, or trying to show how the "good Negro" inspires white people to do the right thing.  The powerful character of Warner did not do the right thing.  Nor did any of the presidents.  Reagan in the film promised to veto any bills that called for a boycott of South Africa, regardless of Cecil's presence.  The film shows how Nixon was using Black capitalism as a cover for targeted assassination against the Black Panther Party. It should raise questions about Obama's potential role in ordering the assassination of al-Awlaki, Malcolm Shabazz, and Assata Shakur. I thought Daniels and Danny Strong made a wise decision to include the Black Panther Party and to show more of a full spectrum of Black consciousness.  If a viewer sticks to their stereotypical prejudices about the Black Panther Party because of a burp in this film, and will dismiss the Party because of a burp, that is no fault of Lee Daniels, but the fault of the viewer. The film should be a guide for learning our history, not a source for learning our history.  I think Lee Daniels has done a wonderful job in The Butler of beginning a very necessary public discussion about our range of options for social change that needs continual feeding.  -RF. 

Burn, Hollywood, Burn!!: "Lee Daniel's,The Butler"

RE: rhone - 08/21/2013 - 15:11

It's always frustrating -- when -- once again -- Hollywood puts out a highly promoted big budget -- but equally highly flawed -- film about 'Black history' or Black people -- whether drama, or "docudrama" (like "Lincoln"), or even *fictionalized* semi-docudrama (like the movie "Precious", which uses terrible abuses that make too many of us immediately sympathetic to -- and totally believable of -- a movie multi-compounded with *every* anti-Black stereotype) -- that grassroots and formal members of the national Black intelligentsia must -- yet once again -- have to deal with and take up their time responding to, as one writer/commenter called it, "a(nother) hot slick mess" -- and, sadly, pathetically, the way too *predictable* Neegroes who *defend* such films. But, *THANK* YOU, Margaret Kimberley -- and *no* thank you "rhone". I hear Public Enemy's, "Burn, Hollywood, Burn!", in my mind.

So, here comes Oprah's Lifetime channel, bitter-sweet, sentimental (or should I say schmaltzy) "docudrama" version of African American history -- with all the superficiality and sentimentality *that* predicts. Too much money can make people weird -- and wwayyy too much money can make people weird *and warp* their worldview -- and too egotistical (reinforced by being surrounded by yes-people all the time) to be bothered with going to seek the true facts (say from an African American History/Studies Department, but, for God's sake, not from "Skip"), especially of their gauzy worldview and how *they* would *comfortably* like it to appear.

And, quite naturally, since Oprah, as most multimillionaires and multibillionaires believe, that they attained progress through *individual* hard work and advancement (well, especially as opposed to commensurate *group* advancement/elevation), especially if their great success *is* primarily/statistically individual, they believe that group socioeconomic and/or historical advancement was the result of some one *individual's* singular effort/fortitude -- and in the Oprah-Daniel "docudrama", especially if it can be comfortably cast in the version of the paaatient, longgg-sufferin', proudly servile, ingraaatiating, "*Good* Negro".

"Militants" who are impatient, after some 350+ years of slavery and the *old* Jim Crow, have gotten us nowhere -- and, if anything, they've been an *impediment* -- according to Oprah-Daniels -- aside from the fact that the old Jim Crow has been steadily replaced by The *New* Jim Crow ('New Jim Crowed' out of just being able to walk down the street without some cops pulling up demanding, 'Boyyy where are you goin'?, "Stop-&-Frisk", Blacks 'New Jim Crowed' off of voter rolls, 'New Jim Crow' into prisons in even greater numbers, and thus 'New Jim Crowed' out of being able to vote at all!, 'New Jim Crowed' out of minimal Affirmative Action, 'New Jim Crowed' with new legal barriers out of being able to legitimately prove in a court of law racial discrimination, 'New Jim Crow' out of their homes by racially targeted predatory lending/mortgages, etc.).

But, when Oprah was discriminated against in the women's jewelry and accessories shop in Switzerland, did she -- a Black *multibillionairess* -- stand up for herself like a superrich Rosa Parks?: "I REFUSE to leave until you show me that super-espensive handbag." Or like a superrich Fannie Lou Hamer!: "Is this the Switzerland of the superrich, where ALLL superrich people are RESPECTED!!?" Or like a superrich Sojourner Truth: "Ain't I a MULTI-BILLIOINAIRE!?" No!! Oprah ultimately, and without much fuss, told the shopkeeper, 'Wellll, then, okayyy, thennnn, if that's what you sayyy...' And then Oprah got some white people in the media to go stand up for her by publicizing the event. Oprah didn't even threaten the shopkeeper that she (Oprah) would put it in a special edition of "O" magazine!

Now, jump to someone like comment poster *"rhone"*, who apparently also wishes that Black history and resistance could be meek, mild, and *COMFORTABLE*; who's first defense of such a film, and then last *APOLOGIST NEEEGRO* rebutal to what "rhone" would have to at last admit is valid historical criticism of such CRITICALLY FLAWED films is -- YET *ANOTHER* FILM ESPECIALLY DESIGNED TO MAKE **WHITE** PEOPLE FEEL GOOD -- EVEN IN THEIR PREJUDICES (like the 'stereotypes on steroids', "Precious") --AS ALL SUCH FILMS ARE MEANT TO DO -- AND TO BRAINWASH A NEWER GENERATION OF YOUNG BLACKS, AND OTHER MINORITIES, INTO *DOCILITY* -- 'Well at least the film is a *WONDERFUL BEGINNING* of a discussion about racial social change blah, blah, blah...'

I thought, it's the year 2013(!!!) and is America going back to films about Black *maids* and *butlers*!? But at least the Black maids in their film became *POLITICAL* and *MILITANT*!! And how about a Hollywood film about how -- before white presidents, vice presidents and politicians completely sanitize her history -- ROSA PARK's real hero was MALCOLM X!! -- AND HOW HE 'SPIRITUALLY' GUIDED HER ACTIVISM -- WHICH WAS BASED AROUND AN ENTIRE BLACK ORGANIZED *GROUP* STRATEGY, not just one l'il tired Black seamstress who wouldn't give up her seat on the bus...

(And what's this with certain Black novelists/filmmakers using literary/movie characters and readily putting down 1960's Black Power activists? Did those Black Power activists, or the idea of them, make those Black novelists/filmmakers too *uncomfortable*? Btw, Oprah didn't think that ANY rap music was legitimate until some multimillionaire Black rapper -- approximating *her* economic class -- finally told her that rap music as a genre was legitimate -- "Now I'm convinced", she said -- even if we didn't necessarily approve of 'bitch-&-ho' lyrics. Oprah didn't even know anything about *political* rap, *conscious* rap, *social commentary* rap, or rap as 'urban blues' or even as a new generation of young Black womanists' 'urban spirituals' -- and that Latinos, Arabs/Muslims, Africans, and even conscious underclass Europeans were using it as the music of political liberation! Most of young Asian-America, and even young and not so young *white*-America accepted various subgenres of rap music longggg before *Oprah* did.)

Next Oprah-Daniels might make a "docudrama" about how it was a lone, docile, ingratiating South African presidential *butler* who *really* led to the political overturn of intergenerational white multi-mass-homicidal Apartheid, and *not* Nelson Mandela and the rest of the ANC, other allied Black organizations, the ARMED STRUGGLE movement, an *international* educational, boycotts and divestment movement, and boisterously militant Black strikes, and allied CUBAN MILITARY DEFEAT of proxy white South African forces elsewhere in Africa.

But, not only are the grassroots and formal Black intelligentsia -- once again -- having their time diverted into criticizing such heavily promoted, effortlessly distributed, big-budget -- but critically flawed -- Hollywood films -- now we also have to have our time diverted criticizing the *NEEGROES*, like *"RHONE"*, who *DEFEND* such films.


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Black Panthers in The Butler.

The low point in Daniels' The Butler is his depiction of The Black Panthers. There are Panthers that would not have tolerated the disrespectful behavior of the Panther members in this film. The film Panther portrays the Panthers in a much better light.


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