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Posted under: Opinion Culture

The Russell Simmons Breakfast Club Interview Is A Slap In The Face To Black Women

"If you’re not going to believe Black women, at least feign enough care to shut the f**k up so we can speak."

For the first time in maybe forever, we’re experiencing a global uprising against racial based inequity and police brutality. The protests, triggered by George Floyd’s murder, have also been unique in its calls to include the unjust deaths of Black women, like that of Breonna Taylor who recently had a law named in her honor banning no-knock warrants. And with all of this worldwide unity, mass chaos,  defaced civil war monuments and a global pandemic hanging around, somehow The Breakfast Club and Russell Simmons still managed to be on that bulls**t.

Three years ago, Russell Simmons found his way into the #MeToo movement when several women accused the disgraced mogul of sexual misconduct and rape. The land-slide of alleged sexual assaults, spanning women across all genres of the media arena, was one of the first cases to feature Black women as sexual abuse victims in #MeToo. Predictably, and unfortunately, these stories were immediately met with backlash and skepticism. 

Simmons could have faded away from public consciousness, dispensing his bootlegged Eastern mysticism mantras from behind a phone screen, but a few weeks ago HBO Max debuted its much anticipated documentary, On The Record. The film’s center comes from Drew Dixon’s harrowing experience, working her way up from helping out in her mother’s mayoral cabinet (first Black female mayor of DC Sharon Pratt) to becoming an executive at Def Jam and Arista. After several inappropriate run-ins, Dixon says that Simmons eventually assaulted her under the ruse of listening to a new demo. The story also features cameos from fellow alleged survivors, writer-director Jenny Lumet and activist-journalist Sil Lai Abrams.

Due to HBO Max’s confusing rollout, and the generally chaotic current state of the world, the documentary has been a slow burn. It would have been decent to allow these women their moment. Instead, the serial offender to Black women, known as The Breakfast Club, decided to invite Russell Simmons to their platform.

The Breakfast Club has long positioned themselves as trolls who look for click-bait moments regardless of who the guest is, but somehow they squandered an opportunity to push Simmons to effectively discuss the allegations by handling him with kid-gloves. They placated the alleged rapist by calling him “Uncle Russ” and lovingly asking about his fitness regime. 

Simmons addressed the accusations by deflecting, “I don’t feel that I victimized them,” he said. “I took 9, separate, three hour lie detector tests.” 

The morning show did not press Simmons on who paid for the tests and what, if any, legal entity suggested he do so. 

Simmons signals to Black people that the women’s stories are worthless because Black publications didn’t widely publicize them (false). He calls himself an ally. He calls the women not credible, except for Jenny Lumet (acclaimed screenwriter and granddaughter of Lena Horne) who he says was not clear about not wanting to have sex and that he couldn’t “read minds.” In one telling instance, lone female DJ Angela Yee attempts to challenge Simmons on Lumet’s account. Simmons then cuts Yee off and  implies that she’s confused.  

During the alleged victimizer's uninterrupted monologue, The Breakfast Club smiled and nodded, musing with him over the divine feminine and masculine. 

In truth,  whether or not the public believes Simmons is irrelevant. The significance of Simmons’ Breakfast Club interview rests in the obvious; he was invited to come on one of Black America’s largest platforms and counter the stories of women who he allegedly raped with virtually no substantial questions asked. Instead, they told him that his house in Bali was immaculate.

Survivors of Simmons’ alleged terror immediately took to social media to denounce the interview with Sil Lai Abrams revealing that the radio show has not invited anyone from the film. And that’s the crux.

People have taken to the streets not just because they saw George Floyd’s life fade under a law enforcement officer's knee. People are not defacing police stations solely because Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down in broad daylight during a suburban jog. It’s also because 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was riddled with bullets in her own home, a casualty of a police “clerical error” that the murderers have yet to be charged with. It’s because deep dimpled seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was set on fire with a flash-grenade and then shot in the head — another case of a mistaken police raid.

Black women, like the rest of Black lives, matter. And we are in pain too. Needlessly allowing Russell Simmons on anybody’s platform (least of all a Black one) to defend himself against the “allegations” of Black women during a global riot, is tone deaf at best. It’s malicious at worst. 

If you’re not going to believe Black women, at least feign enough care to shut the f**k up so we can speak.

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Queer Multi-hyphenate creative who likes fruit snacks and well written TV. She is looking to be in somebody's writers' room. Her work is centered in narrative based social commentary. She forgot her twitter password ages ago, but you can still tag her @ImAmandaMonroe. On IG: @moe_sizslack. She has a cat named Eartha Kitt. Amanda thinks that joke is hilarious.