San Carlos Apache Chairman Offends Many With "Blackface" Halloween Costume

Terry Rambler — San Carlos Apache Tribe chairman and frequent critic of the Washington Redskins football team’s name and mascot— issued a public apology this morning for his Bob Marley Halloween costume after many called it racist.

Rambler painted his face black, donned a dread-lock wig, wore a Bob Marley shirt, and then posted a photograph of his Halloween costume on Facebook.

He was immediately criticized:

“Wow! Bad at it’s worst!! Such a shame this was your choice in ‘costume,’” one Facebook user wrote under the photograph. “How terribly confusing to portray yourself in black face to our CHILDREN! You are supposed to be a role model!”

“Natives out here [are]  trying to fight cultural appropriation and stereotypes but then our chairman is doing this?” another user wrote. “It’s 2015, get out of here with that #blackface.”

Local civil right’s leader Reverend Jarrett Maupin also joined in the criticism, calling Rambler’s costume: “A walking mockery of the Black race.”
Maupin says Rambler “should be ashamed of himself” and wonders how “someone so, allegedly, conscious of his Native American culture and the plight of other racial minorities could dress up in such a ridiculous and racist way?

“I was shocked to see Chairman Rambler of the San Carlos Apache Tribe choose to mock my Black culture and ancestors, dressed in black-face for Halloween. This from a man who is, right now, in our nation's Capitol asking for Congress and President Obama to protect what he claims to be a sacred site of his ancestor.”

Rambler, who also posted photographs of himself recently with Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and other politicians, just returned from a trip to Washington D.C. in which he and other leaders in the Save Oak Flat movement spoke to the nation’s leaders about repealing a controversial land exchange deal that opens a sacred native site in Arizona to copper mining. 

Great meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Senator Sanders will introduce, with Senator Martin Heinrich of...

Posted by Terry Rambler on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

“I see Chairman Rambler posing today with Bernie Sanders, Congresswomen Sinema and Heinrich, and others. I understand that on Thursday he will be meeting with President Obama,” Maupin says.

“How can a grown man, a leader of a nation, someone who is in D.C. right now touting cultural sensitivity…insult the heritage and mock the skin color of the entire Black Diaspora? Where is his integrity?”

Following the outcry, Rambler posted the following message online:

“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.”

Under his post, more than a hundred people commented, most saying they respected and commended him for apologizing.

But not everyone was satisfied: 
"Terry Rambler's so-called apology for dressing in a racist black-face costume and parading around the community has added insult to injury. Any apology that includes ‘if I offended anyone’ is not an apology. [His] statement does not mention Black people directly or indirectly. His statement does not address the racial mockery he so enjoyed. In fact, it says very little at all,” Maupin says.

"It is clear that Black lives do not matter to Chairman Rambler [and] his rambling statement's intentional exclusion of a direct apology to Black Americans further diminishes the argument that his black-face insult was made in innocent ignorance.”
While Rambler did not respond to a request for comment, nor respond to any comments on his Facebook page, the debate about his actions and apology continues online
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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser