​Snapchat isn’t apologizing for its Bob Marley 4/20 filter, which is really just digital blackface

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

In celebration of 4/20, the greenest, dankest of American holidays, the good folks over at Snapchat rolled out a commemorative filter featuring the late reggae musician and noted Rastafarian Bob Marley.


Rather than opting for a filter featuring Marley-esque emoji (like a cannabis leaf, for instance), the filter projects a crude mask of Marley's likeness onto whatever face is in the picture. In other words, the filter attempts to make you look like a black man, complete with a head full of dreadlocks and a beanie.

Marley is often credited with introducing and popularizing Rastafarianism to the U.S. in the late '70s, along with a strong belief in the religion's views on marijuana use. While Marley was a vocal proponent for the legalization of weed, Snapchat's decision to invite its users to participate in what basically amounts to digital blackface left some people beyond offended.

Not only was the filter explicitly racist on a technical level, but it also continued in the tradition of reducing Marley (and Rastafarianism) down to smoking weed.


Perhaps even more disappointing was Snapchat's justification for the whole affair. In a statement provided to Gawker, Snapchat explained that it directly collaborated with Marley's estate to use his likeness.


"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," Snapchat said. "Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley’s music, and we respect his life and achievements."

Similar to the way that this isn't the first time that Bob Marley's family capitalized on his legacy and image for financial reasons, digital blackface isn't exactly new either. This past February, K-Pop singer Taeyang came under fire for using a face-masking app to make himself look like Kanye West.

He posted a video of himself "wearing" a deeply unsettling digital approximation of Kanye's face and wished his followers a "Happy New Year of the Monkey." It is, in fact, the year of the monkey, but the racist implications of the video were undeniable.