Making good decisions on 4/20 is already made difficult by, well, the implications of the day itself, but Snapchat appears to have taken mindlessness to a whole new level. On Wednesday, the photo-sharing app introduced a new feature released exclusively for a day of cannabis celebration — a Bob Marley filter that gives users instant “blackface.” No, seriously.
Sure, the late singer was known for his patronage of the plant, but to say that this new filter is a poorly conceived idea would be a monumental understatement. Not only are your snaps accessorized with the musician’s dreadlocks and Jamaican hat, but you’re instantly made racially insensitive.
Not only are people finding the filter quite offensive, it’s also a bit reductionist when it comes to Marley’s legacy. Is his greatest feat really just smoking a lot of pot?
In a statement, Snapchat defended itself, saying, “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.”
Not surprisingly, social media hasn’t been so kind. Twitter has exploded in a series of tweets expressing shock and outrage at the use of digital blackface, and Kylie Jenner, known for her social media prowess — and affinity for controversy — has already been lambasted for using the filter herself.
Oh my god oh my god oh my god snapchat put a "Bob Marley" filter and it's… bad and in poor taste, to say the least pic.twitter.com/syAHGXp3f6
— Alp Ozcelik (@alplicable) April 20, 2016
but of course Kylie Jenner used that terrible Bob Marley Snapchat filter pic.twitter.com/3Ieoz48ust
— Elena Cresci (@elenacresci) April 20, 2016
How many more times will racism be brushed off for entertainment or amusement?
— ℳ (@QMVIA) April 20, 2016
“Blackface is based on the notion of making black people look inferior,” writes Aaisha Dadi Patel of South Africa’s Daily Vox. “There’s no way for it to ever be something respectful. It was started in American minstrels shows in which white people would perform in blackface, portraying black people as lazy and playing up perceptions of black people as subhuman for the sake of laughs.”
So despite what may have been Snapchat and the Marley estate’s best intentions, this is one joke whose punchline just did not land.