Do I need to get my liver checked out? Because, according to the new emojis, I’m jaundiced and that’s slightly concerning.
The Apple iOS 8.3 will be implementing new emojis that are more racially diverse in response to a petition complaining about the lack of race represented by the limited options in the previous software. A reported 300 emojis will appear when the users update their phones. Not only this, but a skin-tone modifier is also being developed. Many people are praising this decision and some of my friends are “really excited” for it, but I remain indifferent. Emojis have no need to go beyond the emoticons and the poop emoji. They do the job of capturing the emotions of any given moment, so why does anyone need emojis that tell my friends I’m slightly annoyed at them while also making sure they know I’m Asian? Does it also matter if I’m Asian when I want to tap dance or when I want to give a thumbs up?
Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe in an inclusive environment. This means love and compassion for everyone, despite their cultural background, race or religion. No one should be discriminated because of skin colour. However, while Apple is responding diligently to what people want, they’re unintentionally setting up further barriers that are labelling people based on their skin colour. They confirm that society still tends to label people as “black,” “yellow,” “white,” etc. If we want to fight racism, we should stop talking about skin colour to ensure it doesn’t define us. Disagreeing with the addition of these emojis doesn’t mean racism is tolerated and that representation of minorities are condemned. It simply means that there are many other and better ways of representing people than by the hue of an emoji’s skin. It’s also crucial to differentiate race from racism. We must think about how the notion of racism will change if people stopped talking about race. Not to mention, pinpointing different races can lead to overly used stereotypes that I’m sure we’re all tired of.
We need to start embracing diversity differently. I’m a student with major loans who prefers tea over coffee, hates math and is half an extrovert/introvert. I don’t need to also mention that “I’m an Asian” for all those things to be true, and even if I did, it wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t make a difference because so many other things define me. We need to start asking ourselves how much of a difference race makes when it comes to identifying ourselves. Sure, it must play some part in our identity, but we need to focus on encouraging inclusiveness in a less problematic way, in a way that doesn’t endorse racism. On the same note, in what context would people use those racially diverse emojis anyway? We can’t guarantee that they won’t be used in any offensive way. As someone living in a tech-based age where communications is basically hieroglyphics again, I can confirm that emojis can convey inappropriate messages.
An inspiring attitude towards this issue is accurately portrayed in an interview with Morgan Freeman back in 2005, where Freeman called the concept of a Black History Month to be “ridiculous.” He illustrates that we shouldn’t be tagged with an identifier such as “black man” or “Jewish man” in order to stop racism. Freeman says that the method to condemn racism is to “stop talking about it,” with “it” pointing to race and not racism. As long as races exist, so will racism.
We either need emojis that don’t divide people based on race, or we need no emojis at all. Instead of spending time on creating something that is slightly offensive and counter-productive, I wholeheartedly give Apple consent to develop the taco, middle finger (with the skin colour being something obscure like lime green) and multi-coloured poop emojis. Perhaps re-evaluating our reactions towards these new emojis will inspire new outlooks towards race and racism, and lead to even more inclusive behaviour on campus and everywhere else.