The Harriet Tubman Guide to Social Media

By Michael Harriot

Among the infinite list of Black superheroes, real G’s and bad motherfuckers, perhaps no non fictional character will ever surpass the legend of Harriet Tubman. The original ride or die chick, Harriet was part Wonder Woman, part freedom fighter and part Cleo from Set it Off. Most people don’t know that under her scarf, Harriet kept her hair braided in designs that mapped out the Underground Railroad. I don’t know that either, which is why most people don’t. Harriet was a strong, uncompromisingly stoic woman, who, as historians note, never once said the word “yasssss.”

My favorite fact about Tubman was that she carried a revolver and threatened to shoot the weak passengers on the path to freedom if they wanted to go back or compromised the safety of the other escaped slaves. When asked if she really would do it, she once replied, “Yes, if he was weak enough to give out, he’d be weak enough to betray us all and anyone who had helped us, and do you think I’d let so many die just for one coward man?”

That’s why we love her–because Harriet Tubman don’t take no shit. The comedian BStuc once told me that his goal in life is to not be someone Harriet Tubman would have shot.

But what if Harriet Tubman came back to visit us? today? What if she kept her revolver around her waist patrolling for people who betrayed us all, put us in jeopardy or just pissed her off? I actually used a prototype of my Ratchet Bitch Time Machine to bring Harriet to 2016 and explain how social media works. The results were not very surprising:

People who think social media is real Can you imagine what Harriet would say if she found out two people were mad at each other because of a Facebook status? In explaining soicial media to Ms Tubman, she repeatedly referred to it as “the stuff inside the computer.” That is a great way to think of all social media. It’s a fantasy world where all your friends are in loving relationships, wear the flyest clothes and do the flyest shit. Rarely read a post boasting “I’m just sitting here in my flip flops and period drawers bored as hell because I have cramps and I don’t get paid until next week.” Harriet says she never lost a passenger on the Underground Railroad, but I think she would have kicked a few to sleep if she found them posting on twitter as they following the drinking gourd.


Now that’s  a twitter beef.

Food Photographers  I bet Harriet would slave-slap (that’s the ancestor of the “pimp slap”) the shit out of someone taking a picture of their bacon wrapped shrimp so they could post it on Instagram so people could… I don’t know what people do when they see pictures of other people’s food or cocktails on Instagram. I scroll past it, but Harriet remembers shoveling just enough food int her mouth in dark church basements to keep herself nourished until she reached the next stop. Harriet has a low tolerance for dilly dalliers. She smacked me in the back of the head when I asked her to take a selfie with me and said “come on nigga! Is a selfie gon’ help you get to freedom land?”

Facebook Challengers: There’s always someone starting a challenge on Facebook. Whether it’s the “grown and sexy challenge” or the “Love my spouse” challenge, they all seem lovely and harmless to me. Harriet thought it was a cool idea, and was all set to participate in the “head scarf” challenge (You can’t tell it from the black and white photos, but Ms. Tubman has a dope collection of head wraps). When she asked me what was the prize for completing the challenge, and I informed her that she wouldn’t actually win anything, she started loading her shotgun. She had already loaded 3 shells before I added that “I guess they do it for attention…”

She understood that better.  Even though she had a long career as a spay and conductor of the underground railroad, she told me that there was always a slave on the escape route who wanted to be seen and heard, but never contributed much else. I asked her if she would leave them behind, and she responded “No. Once I clocked them across the nose with the butt of my Winchester, they usually calmed down.”

I love that woman.

Snapchatters No, Harriet there isn’t a new species of woman/wolf hybrids. No Harriet, humans aren’t slowly evolving into basset hounds. No Harriet, that’s not why people call women “bitches.” That’s a snapchat filter. I thought women were starting an new trend of flower to their foreheads when I first saw that filter, too. I don’t know why, Harriet, I can’t figure it out either, but please don’t shoot them. They won’t bite you.

People Who Post Concert Footage I showed Harriet your pics and video clips from the concert you last went to. When I asked if she knew who it was, she said she didn’t give a fuck. Well, to be fair, she just acted like  she didn’t care. Her exact words were “I love music, but I don’t give a damn about a 17-second clip of the Beyonce World Tour.” She did ask me why people who post concert footage always have shitty seats. I agree. I know you were at a Rhianna concert but when I saw your grainy footage, I just told her it was Michael Jackson. She reiterated that she didn’t give a fuck.

Then she cocked her handgun and told me to get in formation.

Social Media Activist Harriet would have taken you behind the barn with her pistol. I’m not saying she would have killed you, but she might have have shot you in the fleshy part of the thigh. Harriet taught me a very important lesson about looking for freedom: People who talk are dangerous. Social media is the same way–the people who talk about what Black people need to do, or who think that blacking out their facebook profile or saying “pray for ____” is actually doing something, are really useless, because social media allows people to feel like they’re doing something and they allow it to replace them actually doing something. They talk about what the Black community needs to do, but you never see them doing anything in Black communities, but you know what Harriet said:

I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more, if they weren’t so preoccupied with Facebook.


About the author

Michael Harriot is a renowned spoken word poet, the host of The Black One podcast and the editor-in-chief of NegusWhoRead. He is perpetually just getting warmed up because he has no chill. He is on Instagram and twitter as @michaelharriot

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