As cannabis users around the globe lit the flame and celebrated 4/20, Snapchat came under fire as well.
Many are calling the Bob Marley lens a digitized rendition of blackface.
The filter, which immediately turns subjects into the Jamaican singer Bob Marley, is fully equipped with notably darker features, a Rastafarian beanie and dreadlocks.
In previous instances these lenses, or filters, haven’t been directly correlated to a race or a notable figure.
Typically, they’re harmless overlays of flower crowns, snowflakes and puppy dogs.
Therefore, in a way, this was a test drive. And boy, did Snapchat have a bumpy ride.
Although Snapchat users can hear Marley’s soulful tunes crooning in the background, many individuals felt that because the filter’s launch coincided with “weed day,” it undercut his successes as a social activist and father.
“Bob Marley was a pro-black messenger, voice for the poor and disadvantaged, a prolific political figure and @Snapchat reduced him to a stoner,” Twitter user Toni Macaroni tweeted.
In response to the barrage of outraged Snapchat users complaining on Twitter, Snapchat’s spokesman issued a statement.
“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.”
In the digital world, there is a fine line between appreciation and mockery.
That being said, I assume Snapchat didn’t create this filter with derogatory intentions.
It’s the same thing as having an ill-advised, themed fraternity party.
Just take a look at the theme “what would I do without my degree?”
Ostensibly, there’s nothing belittling about this.
But when college students dressed as homeless individuals show up to a party, that’s when people start wagging their fingers.
Quite obviously, the results are just as harmful if the party were to be “homeless”-themed to begin with.
The same thing can be said for Snapchat’s Bob Marley fiasco.
People look at the lens, and it immediately screams blackface, regardless of intentions.
As a supergiant in the digital media industry, Snapchat sets an example for many millennials and members of Generation Z.
There are 12-year-olds who just downloaded the app yesterday on their brand new iPhone SE, and their first impression of Snapchat is molded by that Bob Marley lens.
The idea of blackface is very antiquated and Jim Crow-esque.
Although we have strayed from the racist association of painting faces black, the abhorrent connotation can still be drawn from digital instances like this one occurring today.
Even though Snapchat had this major faux pas in terms of judgment, the communal response is a reminder of the standards that must be upheld in order to overcome accepted discrimination.
This article was originally published as a column for the Indiana Daily Student on 21 April 2016.