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Why Celebrity Apologies Are Meaningless

Russell Simmons attends the premiere of Lee Daniels' The Butler in Los Angeles. (Mike Windle/Getty Images)
Russell Simmons attends the premiere of Lee Daniels' The Butler in Los Angeles. (Mike Windle/Getty Images)

Roxane Gay at Salon dismisses Russell Simmons' apology tour in the aftermath of the "Harriet Tubman Sex Tape" scandal, calling it pro forma. The media and fans need to demand more of celebrities, including Tyler Perry and Quentin Tarantino, whose denigrating depictions of African Americans, especially women, have reaped them millions.

I initially thought I was angry about the video, but I'm not. I am hardly surprised. There is no bottom to the slippery slope of flawed representation. A Harriet Tubman sex tape is the kind of cultural product we will get when anything goes, when we should be fine with all manner of creative expression because creative freedom is paramount. Nothing is sacred. We've known that for some time now.

We have to be fine with the exploitation of women in most forms of entertainment, and we're supposed to respect reclamation when artists pepper their music with the N-word and when Tyler Perry flourishes and Quentin Tarantino is indulged and when bro-comedians have massive, loyal followings and when Robin Thicke is just, you know, being ironic. Supply and demand. We are given what we ask for, or at the very least what we consume uncritically and silently.

I have no doubt that before our attention shifts to some other terrible thing, there will be impassioned defenses of the sanctity of unfettered comedy and creative expression. It is always interesting, what we choose to respect and what we don't. There will be counterarguments. There will be commentary about the commentary. That's the script and we're getting pretty good at following it. In the meantime, nothing will change unless we demand a different kind of supply.


Read Roxane Gay's entire piece at Salon.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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