Emoji are a fun, (arguably) cute way to text and chat without words. Feeling down? The tears emoji will do. Want to show approval? The applause option is perfect. Want to nonsensically enter a conversation? Go on and choose that penguin! But it’s not all fun and games, because a new petition to add some diversity to emoji is pointing out just how discriminatory these icons are.
New emoji come out with most new updates of iOS software, with the most recent additions update to iOS 6 depicting same sex couples. But while there is a wide variety of white emoji, there are only a few token emoji portraying non-Caucasians. One of the two explicitly non-Caucasian emoji is a brown character in a turban, a choice that stereotypes people of Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian decent. The other is a nondescript Asian man. Strangely, although emoji are Japanese, the majority of the characters exhibit Anglo-Saxon features and there are no female Asians represented, even though many female Asians use the product.
Backlash to the continued paucity of different races is growing; there’s even a petition on Do Something asking Apple to introduce a more diverse roster of emoji for the iOS7 emoji keyboard update.
“But of the more than 800 Emojis, the only two resembling people of color are a guy who looks vaguely Asian and another in a turban. There’s a white boy, girl, man, woman, elderly man, elderly woman, blonde boy, blonde girl and, we’re pretty sure, Princess Peach. But when it comes to faces outside of yellow smileys, there’s a staggering lack of minority representation.”
The petition calls for at least four characters with darker skin tones in the next update. The outpouring of support for this issue highlights how important it is to people that they are fairly represented in media, and that included animated mobile icons.
Even before the petition, people took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.
If you want to send friends emoji of a different race now, you’re limited to the Asian options – but if you’re looking for a temporary solution to the lack of black emoji and you have an Android, you can download the Black Emoji app in the Google Play store. The app supplements the lily-white faces of the regular emoji pack and provides a variety of smiling faces with more melatonin.
There’s even a professional pack so you can depict dark-skinned people in good jobs (I’m a little confused as to why a bride and groom are included in the professional pack, but that’s a nit pick for another time.)