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I guess we are doing this again: Let’s talk about cultural appropriation.
Today is April 20, a.k.a. 4/20, the stoner’s day of delight. This date actually gained traction in 1970s California, and the Grateful Dead helped launch 4/20 into mainstream lingo. Although this date has no real connection to Bob Marley (it's not the date of his birth or death), popular app Snapchat is offering a filter of the musician's face for the day.
Why is Snapchat using a filter that is essentially black face? Who decided to perpetuate the stereotype that Bob Marley is simply an icon for weed and disregard his religion, culture, and artistic legacy? Is the filter culturally appropriative for reducing Rastafari to a joke about pot?
“Rasta culture is NOT about ganja,” 19-year-old Willie Williamson, who was raised Rasta, told NTRSCTN. “Ganja is a part of it, but it’s used strictly for spiritual purposes. It’s seen as a godly plant. Bob Marley was a devout Rastafari and deserves to be treated as the man of God he was, instead of a poster child for marijuana.”
I don't know how Bob Marley became the poster child of marijuana (I do. It's whitewashing), but it really is an insult to his legacy.— The Notorious T.I.T (@BELLEionaire) April 20, 2016
“From the religious viewpoint, Bob Marley didn’t smoke weed recreationally,” said 20-year-old Tamara-Nicole Johnson, who is Jamaican American and felt appalled by Snapchat's Marley filter. “It’s part of tradition within that religion. Just as Christians break bread and drink wine as part of communion. And the issue goes beyond that, to stereotyping black culture, Jamaicans, and Snapchat endorsing that stereotyping. The filter is racist, point blank period.”
It's hard to argue otherwise: Just look at the screenshot.
I’m a white woman, and I was able to successfully achieve black face in less than 30 seconds, thanks to Snapchat's interactive filter. The app superimposes Marley's facial features onto the user's face, and adds darker skin, dreadlocks, and a hat.
A Snapchat spokesperson told NTRSCTN:
The lens we launched today was created in partnership with the Bob Marley Estate, and gives people a new way to share their appreciation for Bob Marley and his music. Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley's music, and we respect his life and achievements.
Critics were quick to take to Twitter:
people still reducing Bob Marley to some pothead icon I see.— ole doodoo brown lip (@erni_ebooks) April 20, 2016
Its WAY deeper than weed when it comes to Bob Marley.— S.A.F.E (@AceXApollo) April 20, 2016
Snapchat got a black face Bob Marley filter for 4/20 smh. So much fail. pic.twitter.com/OFYtIeLFiy— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) April 20, 2016
Snapchat did not immediately respond to NTRSCTN's request for comment.