The new emojis: problematic representation

Sabina Unni, Assistant Opinions Editor

iOS 8.3 launched the usage of new emojis, including more country flags and options to change skin tones. Although these are an attempt to be more inclusive, they are not without controversy. There are five different shades to choose from, and the default is a yellow emoji.

As an Indian-American, I am hyper aware that being represented in pop culture is very important as it allows people to have a better sense of identity and a place in society.

Many believe that Apple’s attempt at inclusiveness actually works.

“I actually really like the new Apple emojis,” said junior Catalina Salvatierra. “I am Hispanic, so it’s nice to finally be represented, and not just have a bunch of white emojis to choose from.”

I like that I can be represented as more than a man in a Turban. And I appreciate being able to see myself in the technology that I am exposed to every day. Although this new emoji system is teeming with flaws, it is a very positive step to give representation to larger groups of people.

But, should something as small as emojis be a part of a larger discussion on race? Many believe that the introduction of race is unnecessary. Due to high racial tensions that have arisen in the last six months, anything race-related becomes a talking point.

Senior Sameer Nanda said “It’s unnecessarily bringing attention to these race issues. An emoji is an emoji, so you don’t need to add some social depth to this.”

It’s also important to remember that Apple and iOS programmers and executives still represent a corporate entity, so added controversy draws attention to the brand, helping their monetary success.

Washington Post writer Paige Tutt echoed this and said, “[the inclusion of races] seems like a big horse and pony parade by Apple to appease people of color. Sure, it’d be nice to see some emojis that look like me. But, at the end of the day, none of these really do.”

I happen to disagree. Even though emojis seem trivial, desiring to be a part of the whole is a valid emotion to have.

The largest controversy stems from the coloring of the default emojis. A mustard yellow was chosen as the neutral, mostly because no human being actually is that color. Previously, the circular blobs were yellow, but bore little resemblance to humans, so these drew no controversy. However, these more human looking emojis bear the stereotypical “yellow face” that is often associated with Asian people.

Opinions editor Stacey Kim tried to break a school computer once she saw what the yellow emojis looked like. She almost broke my phone (this was not the first time).

Sophomore Kelsey Weisburd said, “I think that it’s good that they’re being inclusive, but it comes off as a little offensive.”

It’s really crucial to analyze aspects of our society and microagressions when having a holistic discussion of race. Yes, they’re just emojis. But in the same way, they permeate so many aspects of our daily life, and because of the broad audience they reach, I think that the decision to air on the side of inclusive is a wise one. And yes, the yellow emojis were probably not the wisest choice, but this is fixable; a more racially neutral standard emoji, like the ones used on Android devices, might be the best solution.

Senior Kim Winter said “In my opinion, they should make all the emojis purple so that no one will feel marginalized and everyone will feel confused. But that’s just me, I think.”