The Reality of Perpetuating Racist Stereotypes: An Open Letter to SnapChat on 420

Police shining lights on handcuffed African man sitting on curb
Police shining lights on handcuffed African man sitting on curb

Dear Snapchat,
I'd like to start this letter by saying you are one of my most frequently used apps! Most of your filters make me cry tears of happiness and laughter-especially when I use them on my dog, Rosie. She's got the most adorable face!

However, i'm not writing a letter to you today to applaud your hilarious creativity. I'm actually writing a formal complaint against your "Bob Marley" filter which I presume was intentionally unveiled today, 4/20/16 for obvious reasons :::insert bong bubbles and coughing sounds here:::

I'm going to break down why this filter is not only problematic but distasteful in 3 easy to read paragraphs, just in case all of Team Snapchat was stoned when they thought of this.

Did you know that people of color-specifically blacks and latinos-are disproportionately incarcerated and arrested for the possession of marijuana? Even if it is in tiny amounts! Blacks are more likely to be arrested and serve longer sentences to crimes related marijuana use and possession than any other racial group. As one of my favorite journalists, Maria Hinojosa recently stated, marijuana is often used as a "revitalized tool to target people of color". Now, incase you are not seeing the connection here, let me make it clear to you: A filter which covers anyone's face with that of a (albeit legendary) black man in the promotion of marijuana only further stigmatizes the populations that are negatively affected by it most. This leads to my second point.

Continuing to stigmatize the use of marijuana as something only people with "darker skin do" is just plain wrong. There is a plethora of research showing that marijuana use is pretty consistent among all racial groups. Yes, even white people smoke weed. You don't have to be black with dreadlocks in order to take dank puffs! If you don't believe me, take a walk around the lovely Greenpoint neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. There are dozens of "very nice white kids" who look nothing like Bob Marley who sit on their balconies and stoops while taking hits to the dome. Now, if you still don't see something wrong with providing a black face filter of a Jamaican man on 4/20, i'll proceed to my third point-which I have capitalized for clarity.

HOW MANY TIMES DO COMMUNITIES OF COLOR NEED TO TELL THE PUBLIC THAT BLACKFACE IS WRONG? No matter which way you look at it, cultural appropriation is a sticky issue and when you are encouraging people everywhere to be a "black man for a day"-especially today, on 4/20, you are perpetuating a cycle of hate, criminalization, and overall, IGNORANCE.

I've provided some resources for you (below) to stay educated on this topic, because I sincerely hope that you as a company never make this type of mistake again. Millions of SnapChat stories are shared daily, and for you to assist in the devolution of racial justice and equity is appalling.

Natalie Flores