Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

New ‘diverse’ iPhone emojis fail to be inclusive

In early April of 2015, Apple released the software update iOS 8.3, thereby welcoming new racially and sexually diverse emojis into the global social-networking sphere. “What a wonderful idea,” you might say. In fact, when I first heard of this update I thought something along the lines of, “Way to go, Apple, for finally representing the billions of non-white or non-straight inhabitants of this planet.”

But, in reality, this change aiming to recognize diversity has already had detrimental effects to the ways in which race is handled on social-networking platforms.

Mainly, choosing which race to use for an emoji forces people of color to pointlessly identify themselves in a way that segregates them from other races. Because I am white, should I only use white-skinned emojis? What if I use another skin color and accidentally conform to a racially charged stereotype?

As Naomi Harris of University of Maryland’s The Diamondback explains, “Something as seemingly minor as an emoticon reinforces the notion that people of color as ‘others.'” Instead of practicing “colorblindness” and allowing equal communication with others, diverse emojis exacerbate the divisions between races. People of color are forced to unnecessarily identify and separate themselves from other races in everyday conversation.

As has already been seen since their release, the new emojis have also created both accidental and intentional racial problems on social media.

“The emojis are being used to make racist social comments on social media and insert questions of race in texts and Tweets where it may never have arisen before,” states Washington Post columnist Paige Tutt.

Clorox, for example, released a tweet that reads, “New emojis are alright but where’s the bleach.” Meaning to refer to the new cleaning emojis, the tweet received backlash on the grounds of racist implications.

Intentionally “humorous” memes and screenshots, similarly, have begun to appear using the new emojis. The other day I saw a picture online titled “when yo credit score going up” that depicted the progression of emoji races from black to white. While there are plenty of ways to be racist on the Internet, there is still no point in adding another method.

The best option would be for Apple to create a racially neutral emoji and get rid of the five other races. But wait, the company did try to do that! But the default “neutral” race is bright yellow, an installment that has both offended Asians and led people to assume the option is meant to represent the Asian minority.

Although they insensitively represented only one ethnicity, white emojis on the previous software created a certain homogeneity and equality of use. This constancy, though based on a privileged norm, did not create obvious and arbitrary divisions between races like the ones that exist now.

However, I do not think that Apple will take it back. Since many people, including myself, had a gut reaction that tells them that the company is being progressive with the new update, Apple has no reason to condemn the new emojis. I just hope that, if they create larger problems, Apple remains reasonable and socially conscious enough to take the racial component down.

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