Native American leader's 'blackface' for Halloween causes outrage

San Carlos Apache Tribe's leader Terry Rambler dressed in blackface as Bob Marley for Halloween Image copyright Terry Rambler/Facebook
Image caption Rambler dressed in blackface. He has since apologised and said he "did not mean to offend anyone."

A Facebook post from a prominent Native American activist has caused outrage - including from other online rights activists.

Terry Rambler, chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona, is an outspoken part of the online campaign against the Washington Redskins' team name - and one of those pushing the popular hashtag opposing such names, Not Your Mascot. He also recently joined other tribal leaders in signing a pledge opposed to the "racially offensive" name of the NFL American football team.

The movement has drawn solidarity and support on social media. So when Rambler posted a Facebook picture of himself as Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley, complete with a dreadlocks wig and "blackface" make-up, there was predictable outrage online. The story was picked up by news media, and spread widely on Facebook and Twitter.

Rambler has since removed the photo from the social network, and apologised.

The Reverend Jarrett Maupin, a civil rights campaigner and active member of the Black Lives Matter movement - which is also active online and has shown solidarity with Not Your Mascot - told BBC Trending: "We are very upset about it. This is a man who has derided sports organisations who have done the very same thing. It's hard for me to accept that he didn't know what he was doing or the message he has conveying."

Mr Maupin, also from Arizona, has worked alongside tribal leaders, including Rambler, on issues of discrimination and called Rambler's decision to put on 'blackface' a "betrayal" and "a huge statement considering he's the leader of a sovereign nation." He says he wants Rambler to step down.

Rambler apologised this morning on Facebook, writing, "in hindsight it was a poor choice I made. I am not a racist and I did not mean to offend anyone but I realize I did. There is no one to blame but me."

The Apache Tribe chairman was in Washington this week for the White House Tribal Nations Conference and was scheduled to meet with President Obama today, but appears to have returned home early following press response to the incident.

Johnnie Jae, founding board member of the campaign group Not Your Mascot said that the incident was "disheartening" and "detrimental to the work we're trying to do" to help minorities and counter discrimination.

There were others who rallied to support Rambler. On his Facebook page, some noted that public outrage over dressing in 'blackface' is not in general matched when people dress offensively as Native Americans. Johnnie Jae says she understands this argument. "So many people feel it's an easy way to show that correlation between redface and blackface. With blackface there is outrage all around and it's a collective outrage but when it comes to redface and native American culture being mocked it's overlooked and seen as acceptable."

In the run up to Halloween, several mainstream US media published articles on whether or not to go 'blackface' to Halloween suggesting that the racially offensive move is still popular among some.

'Blackface' originates in the United States from the minstrel shows of the early 19th century, in which actors caricatured and mocked black slaves. In a 2015 Yougov.com poll, 27% of black Americans and 33% of white Americans thought putting on 'blackface' for Halloween was acceptable.

Blog by Olivia Crellin

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