By Damon Beres, huffingtonpost.com
Ever wanted to look like Bob Marley? Snapchat is now giving you the opportunity with a new filter. But some are criticizing the feature, calling it “digital blackface.”
Reached by The Huffington Post, a spokeswoman for Snapchat said that the filter was created in partnership with the Bob Marley Estate.
“[It] gives people a new way to share their appreciation for Bob Marley and his music,” the spokeswoman said. “Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley’s music, and we respect his life and achievements.”
Be that as it may, a number of people are outraged by the filter, which adds dreadlocks to your head and makes your face appear darker and more angular.
— LifeOfKai (@MyLifeofKai) April 20, 2016
So… there’s a Bob Marley @Snapchat filter. Blackface is now OK, apparently?
— Brenda Wong (@brendaisarebel) April 20, 2016
i love how fun snapchat’s selfie lenses are, but not when they’re racist like today’s blackface one or the bindi filter tied to coachella
— Gabe Bergado (@gabebergado) April 20, 2016
Snapchat creates literal blackface in celebration of 4/20? https://t.co/mApZa1lyyJ
— Saeed Jones (@theferocity) April 20, 2016
Snapchat’s half-baked 420 nod is a Bob Marley blackface filter?! Dude was Jamaican! Did waaaay more than smoke weed. pic.twitter.com/t6tazxnMxT
— Brian Ries (@moneyries) April 20, 2016
The list goes on and on.
The spokeswoman for Snapchat did not respond when HuffPost asked about whether the filter would remain as an option. It was introduced on April 20, or 4/20, a national holiday of sorts for stoners. It’s likely to be temporary.
Snapchat also did not respond when asked by HuffPost about the diversity of its staff. The tech world is dominated by white people, with razor-thin margins occupied by African-Americans. Snapchat has repeatedly declined to release numbers about its workforce even as it accepts tax credits for diverse hires.
Asked point-blank about diversity by journalist Walt Mossberg last year, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegal didn’t offer much of an answer.
“Again, this is sort of the challenge, and I should have exact percentages for you but we just don’t think about diversity in terms of numbers that way. … We think about people and diverse skill sets,” Spiegal said in part.
If Snapchat’s peers are any indicator, Spiegal might be less inclined to “think about diversity in terms of numbers that way” because the numbers are terrible. Facebook is 55 percent white and 2 percent African-American, for example. Twitter is similar, as are LinkedIn and Google. Snapchat might be much more diverse, but we don’t know because the company won’t tell us — which sets it apart from its peers in the social media space.
This is exactly why Snapchat should think about diversity “in terms of numbers” and not “skill sets.” It goes without saying that you are less likely to offend groups of people if they are represented in your workplace, where you interact with them every day.
Or at least, it should go without saying. But diversity advocates are forced to make this point time and time again. They make it when Facebook employees cross out Black Lives Matter slogans and when Microsoft has dancing women entertain people at a party.
And yes, they’re making that same point now.