This picture has caused a considerable outcry not just because it shows someone in blackface but who the person is. This is San Carlos Apache chairman Terry Rambler who two years ago joined President Barack Obama to denounce the “racially offensive” name of the Washington Redskins. For the purposes of full disclosure, I have been critical of the legal moves to force the team to change its name (though I have no problem with protests and efforts at a boycott for those offended by the team name).
The choice of this Halloween costumes struck more than just a few as hypocritical. Rev. Jarrett Maupin, a civil rights campaigner and “Black Lives Matter” activist, told the BBC. “It’s hard for me to accept that he didn’t know what he was doing or the message he has conveying.”
Rambler’s campaign against “racially offensive” mascot names does not appear to influence his own costumes choices. He posted a picture of himself dressed in blackface, fake dreadlocks, a Rastafarian hat, a Bob Marley “One Love” t-shirt and an Arizona Cardinals necklace. He wrote “Trick or treat. Happy Halloween,” next to the phone and noted later “I had fun tonight at the Bylas Halloween Carnival.”
It took four days for Rambler to change his mind after a growing public outcry. He wrote:
“Recently, I posted on my Facebook page a picture of my Halloween costume dressed up in reggae style. I did this thinking I wanted to dress up as one of my favorite musicians, Bob Marley. But 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. I take full responsibility for my action.
So this morning, I asked my Creator to forgive me for the poor choice I made, as I did not mean to offend his children. I love my Creator’s children. With the humbling experience I have had in life, I appreciate and respect my surroundings more, especially the people. I will continue to ask my Creator for forgiveness as I am not perfect but I realize asking for forgiveness means not repeating the action.
I ask for forgiveness from the public and to anyone I may have offended.
“As a public official, as a leader and Chairman of the great San Carlos Apache Tribe, I ask my people for forgiveness, as I did not mean to shine a negative light on my people nor my family.”
There are certainly images and names that can offend different groups. Blackface is a good example. I accept Rambler’s insistence is not a racist and simply showed poor judgment. Ironically, Rambler has shown how public pressure can result in changes when there is a substantial number of critics. The concern over free speech arises when agencies are called in to coerce such changes. The view of the controversy over the Redskins name is far more divided than the reaction to those who would wear black face. Ultimately, however, both controversies can be addressed and resolved in the court of public opinion in my view. It certainly worked in forcing Rambler to conform his conduct.