You may have noticed by now that you can text a koala, the Mexican flag, sushi or a space alien, but when it comes to depictions of humans, iPhone emojis are not exactly racially diverse. Both Miley Cyrus and Tahj Mowry have mentioned the racial disparity, and MTV Act blogger Joey Parker recently wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook about making a change.
The vice president of Apple’s corporate communications gave Parker a response :
“Tim forwarded your email to me. We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.”
Emoji equality has been dismissed as laughable by a huge chunk of the internet. They’re just cartoons, and it is a small matter compared to much bigger civil rights issues in the world. But these little visibility issuers are where inequality takes root. When a kid looks at a set of faces and doesn’t see their race, they may start to internalize unconscious assumptions about why none of the pictures represent them. Discrimination doesn’t just live within major acts of violence – our society has internalized it so much that it’s showing up (often unnoticed) in the most minuscule details of life, including our iPhones.
So as much as there may be bigger racial inequality fish to fry in the world, adding more emoji diversity would be a step in a positive direction. That said, Apple really should have done this from the start instead of having to be badgered into it years after emojis came onto the scene.