This New Snapchat Filter Is Not OK

Photo: Rex
This morning we woke up and went about our daily business, because, well, it’s Wednesday and we have work. Then we were reminded by our social media feeds that it’s #420, people! Not sure what we’re on about? It’s the unofficial, American-bred, worldwide celebration of marijuana. 420 refers to April 20 (written the American way with the month first, followed by the day). We’re sure that this is unlikely to deter you from going about your day to day business. Then we logged onto our Snapchat and we realised the social media platform had added a special Bob Marley filter for 420. No, seriously, you can transform yourself into a black cultural icon for LOLs to celebrate a day that’s all about smoking weed (Snapchat doesn't explicitly state the connection but it's pretty clear that they are trying to capitalise on the unofficial - and social media friendly - holiday). Because that’s all that Bob Marley did, right? Smoke weed? Besides, this is surely 2016's version of blackface? It’s quite a breathtakingly offensive move on the global brand’s behalf and one that doesn’t sit comfortably. The filter digitally imposes dreadlocks and rasta headwear in traditional Jamaican colours onto the head of users, as well as darkening lighter skin tones.
You have to ask what was running through their heads when they decided to reduce the most iconic Jamaican musician of all time and his legacy into a Snapchat filter in honour of a unofficial day of getting stoned? Well, we’re going to make a wild guess: 'money' and 'kudos with the kids' (Snapchat's press office are yet to respond to our request for comment). We’d like to hope that most people are clued up enough about cultural appropriation to know that this kind of clumsy manoeuvre can only be compared to buying a rastacap with attached dreads from Camden market and glibly mounting London’s underground system. Or, Justin Bieber transforming his bleached hair into blonde dreadlocks. Oh wait… We’re not sure that Bob Marley died in order to become a Snapchat filter - he is one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time, whose 1977 album Exodus included the legendary anthems “Exodus”, "Waiting in Vain", "Jamming", and "One Love”. He is widely considered to be the critical figure to have popularised reggae music around the world and both in his lifetime and posthumously he is recognised as a spiritual, joyful and important symbol of Jamaican culture. Let’s keep it that way.

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