I kept waiting for a paragraph that would confirm this isn't a serious blog post.
in opting for the white emoji, a white person is engaging in a sort of affirmative white supremacy.
Are you fucking kidding me?
In sum, it is racist for whites to use any emoji.
This is the world we're living in.
The author of the original article that he's basically adding nothing to does have a point in that I don't use the white emoji because of this perception that the mere act of being white and admitting you're white in most senses is now considered racist oppression. I opt for the Simpson's yellow. I don't agree with the assertion that it is "essentially white". More that it is a good representation of a cartoon person of various possible ethnicities. Though... thinking about the Simpsons I guess the characters of other races/ethnicities were brown colorations... so... maybe I'm wrong.
To confirm there are various instances in The Simpsons where their yellow is identified as white, for example the Michael Jackson episode, Stark Raving Dad , where the character voiced by Michael is described as a "the big white guy who thinks he's the little black guy" (his character is the same yellow as the Simpson family and many other characters on the show).
Eli is a douche
Be nice. Or else.
Yesterday I happened upon a controversial article in the Atlantic by Andrew McGill, entitled Why White People Don’t Use White Emoji. McGill started with the premise that the phenotypically white emoji aren't being used in proportion to what one might expect given the American demography. His secondary headline proposed a theory: "Does shame explain the disparity?"
I don't use the 'white' emoji because anything other than the default renders for some users as the emoji + a patch of skin, which I find pretty unsettling.
Or.. Apple decided to "own" emojis in recent times (Apple has majority of seats at the Unicode board so they're lobbying hard) and felt compelled to play the race-sheriff. Yellow is just fine, like the Simpsons. Everybody likes the Simpsons.
Yellow = white in the Simpsons.
Edit: Just thought I'd clarify this – I mean to say that simply changing from white to yellow wouldn't be a solution either, as yellow characters themselves are usually representations of white people. This is as much a response to Sam's comment below too!
You have a yellow emoji in your tagline so you must agree :)
Its a complex discussion. I personally don't care so much about the implications highlighted by the article Eli is referencing as much as I care about the reason why people are so adamant about the need for rainbow emojis — and the fact that those choices are made by a group of companies which all have a vested interest in it (and not by linguists, or the academic world).
There's ton of alternatives to anthropomorphic emojis (e.g.: look at Line, one of the largest messaging apps globally, they have all sorts of stuff. Or even FB itself with its stickers - they are just not a unicode standard) and I would be completely fine if they all looked like green aliens. Or plants (so we can take sex out of the equation as well, because you know that's coming next).
What I'm trying to say is that my identity does not need to be reinforced by the emoji I use. And I believe that identity itself is at the root of so much of today's racial upset. I don't know wether we should stop identifying so much with our own race or ethnicity, but what I do know is that having a little bit of less pride and more flexibility will help a lot and will also pave the way to real integration.
having a little bit of less pride and more flexibility will help a lot and will also pave the way to real integration.
I'd say that's a dangerous statement. White westerners in power have overrun, destroyed, and erased the history and cultures of many different people groups. Those who don't identify as white which is overwhelmingly used as the default in most western representation will continue to have their history, culture, and identities repressed if they aren't provided the "flexibility" and space to be represented as themselves online and off. Real integration requires the acknowledgement of the broader context we live in instead of ignoring it for the sake of unrepresentative simplicity.
Oh ok, so all races are allowed to have pride and an identity, except for whites. No pride or identity for them. That makes sense - total equality.
Oh shit! He just pulled the Trump card!
Take that reverse racists!
White people's identity is the default – it's reflected back to them everywhere in Western culture. Emoji allowing people of underrepresented races to express their identity, and their pride in that identity, is about giving individuals the ability to see their own identity reflected in our society/culture, which tends to marginalize their place within it. Check the 'standard' colour of bandages, or look at the ratio of white to non-white hollywood actors in leading roles – whiteness as the default is a notion that is systemic, and it manifests itself in our culture in so many ways, both mundane and prominent. Addressing the issues of representation is a really sticky, difficult thing to navigate (as this attempt at proper representation in emoji shows): it's inevitably a process of figuring out what works and what doesn't.
How did you get here from my comment? I was saying that all racial identities should be provided the flexibility to be represented as themselves online and off. How does this exclude white people? My comment simply supports those who aren't white people to be represented as well as those who are, how is that inequality or saying no pride or identity for white people?
I'm not necessarily against giving anyone the tools to express themselves: language is the only true democracy we have so it changes with the use people make of it regardless of emojis (another reason why i don't like a bunch of corporations involved).
I'm just questioning the need for it, based on where people draw their core identity from. Think about this: if you so strongly identify with something you're gonna stick to it (and to the people that identify with the same), how's that providing any integration?
I'm saying that maybe people should be less polarized with what they identify with, cause frankly it seems that one can have so much more to rely on than having their race or ethnicity as the core of their identity (such as their values, passions, experiences, the things they've done in their lives).
In the context of emoji the "racemoji" are a small subset of the total, I think the idea is to give people the opportunity to express their identities with values, passions, experiences, things they've done -- and race (should they choose to use a racemoji). It seems that this "flexibility" provides a further democratized emoji language, and the adherence to such a language might be seen as a form of integration too (versus Slack where one can upload a unique emoji). I do agree with your point for democratizing these decisions further and not having them be as driven by corporate interests.
To clarify my comment, I'm not advocating that yellow is the right color.
The hands could have been purple or blue. I mentioned yellow, because is currently the default.
just to clarify, the first iterations of the emoji that now have skin tones weren't yellow, they were white. see the iOS7 default emoji here
@Taurean: ah, you're right. I have horrible memory, regardless. I like yellow better :)
I'm mixed race and I personally don't care about having emoji's representing my my skin tone, for the most part whoever I interact with already know's my skin tone and emoji's are just used to convey emotions.
I'm more in favour of the emoji's being neutral and I think the yellow ones are fine, I'm honestly sick of so much stuff coming down to race these days, can't we just be human beings rather than subsets and continually separated?
This white guilt stuff is irritating imo, if your a 'real racist', stop being a c*nt and love your fellow person regardless of melanin levels. White people, if your genuinely a nice person ffs stop saying sorry when you have done nothing wrong.
I have no pride in my skin colour or heritage just my achievements because they are something I had a hand in rather than the lottery of birth.
McGill argues rightly that in opting for the white emoji, a white person is engaging in a sort of affirmative white supremacy.
This is a silly conclusion to come to. Although I concede that the yellow default could easily be perceived as white, I think the intent is to match it up with the original smilie icons that have been a part of the internet since AOL.
I also think that part of the discomfort just stems from the fact that its rare for white people to ever have to explicitly identify that they're white. No one on the internet is going to think you're trying to show "White Power" just because you're using an emoji representative of your own racial identity.
No one on the internet is going to think you're trying to show "White Power" just because you're using an emoji representative of your own racial identity.
I don't know. I regularly find myself using the yellow emoji instead of white, out of fear of being perceived as someone with white pride (which is absurd when you think about it, but alas...). It just isn't fashionable or acceptable to be white (and proud).
I think he's ignoring two facts:
- Apple's UI makes you choose your race/skin tone when using emojis for the first time.
- There's gotta be a default, man. Yellow is better than white. It's hard to choose an alternative but I'm open to discussion.
Would transparent line drawing versions work? As in, black outlines that take on whatever color the background is?
That's a good idea! Though I imagine the same argument could be made… "transparent icon on white background implies white skin". At some point we gotta stop, haha.
You can't win. We've created a society where it's fashionable to be a victim, and perceived victims are given precedent (read: special treatment) over all others, regardless of whether or not they were actually victimized (or the others were involved in any sort of perpetration). We are more racist and discriminatory now than we've ever been, but now it's just against a different group.
We are more racist and discriminatory now than we've ever been, but now it's just against a different group.
I assume you refer to white and/or privileged people as the "other group".
more racist and discriminatory now than we've ever been
I think there is some real irony here because no people of color are complaining about white people using white emoji. This is simply White writers making the claim that white emoji = white power and making the jump that by extension white people can't use emoji.
To #1, this isn't necessarily true of all devices and all contexts emojis occur.
Those are definitely good points. I think Apple has done the right thing and using yellow as default and including other skin tones is a positive thing. But, it’s also pretty hard to ignore that yellow = white traditionally in many cartoons.
I’m pretty sure he’s not actually suggesting white people shouldn't be allowed to use emoji, but I am confused as to how he ends up concluding that the yellow is the problem. Whatever the default colour ends up being, I think the original article sums up very nicely why white people will broadly continue using it:
at a time when skin-tone modifiers are used to assert racial identity, proclaiming whiteness felt uncomfortably close to displaying “white pride,” with all the baggage of intolerance that carried.
You can't have a race-less human, but I think as long as you try to have race-less emoji, this problem will still be there; it gives the option of whether or not to acknowledge race, and that choice necessarily says something.
YES. The yellow is bizarre and garish. The white (even the second level down, which is probably most accurate for me) feels awkward ("hey, just confirming I'm a white guy!").
Where is my attack helicopter emoji?
Really interesting topic, great post Eli!
Although I'm still not entirely sure if every Eli Schiff article is satire or not, I think there are some fair points made here. And although I agree that the fact that white users don't feel the need to switch from yellow emojis confirms that many feel "white=default=yellow", my primary disagreement is that using a white emoji is somehow a bad thing or promotes white power. I don't think it does this unless the context is suggesting something of that nature. If it does signify this I think it's up to white users to change this perception by not being racist.
I think the appropriate solution is to use your race when communicating as yourself (if comfortable) and use either the default or some representative tone (what matches that voice of the org, alternating, etc) when representing an org (there is likely not a one-size-fits-all solution for groups and orgs until the default becomes seen as more ambiguous). If white users continue to not use the white emojis it will further underscore the fact that white=default=yellow, this could be the same case with any non-skin-tone if changed so long as white users continue to enforce this vision of the default/hero/etc as white.
And although I agree that the fact that white users don't feel the need to switch from yellow emojis confirms that many feel "white=default=yellow".
Interesting. I don't think I ever personally thought white=default=yellow, at least not in a conscious way. But as a white person who doesn't feel any strong ties to my culture/skin color, I don't think I would ever be compelled to change whatever the default is anyways. What I mean is, a black person so often has to deal with being identified by their skin color that I imagine they'll feel like it plays a larger part of their identity than I feel my skin color plays in mine.
Precisely. My suggestion is that white users owning and using white identities through emoji is perhaps the most effective way to make the "default" (yellow or otherwise) less associated with whiteness thus opening it's use up more to others. Making a real difference on what race is seen as a "default" in tech, media, and beyond is a much larger and systemic issue, but this is one avenue of user-powered change.
Well said, Drew.
I'm half-Korean, half-white. I use the default yellow because...it's the default. When I decide to react to a friend's text with a cartoon face, trying to identify with that cartoon and have it reflect my physical features just isn't on my mind. It has nothing to do with my background.
It's good that you didn't feel misrepresented by the default, but the Atlantic article referenced in Eli's article suggested that many do (it's also worth noting that for previous Emoji hands the default was white), so it still warrants consideration: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/white-people-dont-use-white-emoji/481695/
I think it's up to white users to change this perception by not being racist pigs (which white people in general need to stop being anyway smdh).
Seriously dude? I can't believe that blatant racism and generalizations like that statement not only go unchecked, but are also widely accepted. How hilariously hypocritical of you.
Fair enough, I removed the generalized portion of that statement. My primary point was in regard to multiple articles linked suggesting that white emojis have connotations of white supremacy views, and my argument here was that it is up to users to use white emojis appropriately in contexts which are devoid from such harmful views in order to avoid or delineate such a connection. If the perceived connection between white emoji and white supremacy persists even with appropriate contexts then it may signify that white culture at large (outside of such communication) has a perceived connection with white supremacy viewpoints (this is why the change may be required outside of online communication context). The latter is also a case some would argue is easy to make, but I apologize for generalizing as it was unproductive in this discussion.
I think the creation of the skin color emoji's are a bit odd. Why not just change the default to yellow and leave it at that?
Emoji's are an enhancement of text-based communication that allow more flexible options. For example adding a winky face so the receiving user knows that you're being playful and not insulting.
I'm not sure what a brown, white or black hand signify beyond the thumbs up, OK sign, or pound it (punch) that the gestures stand for.
EDIT: I mentioned Yellow here, because that's the current default. I'm not advocating that yellow is the right color. The default could be blue or purple.
I'm very happy with the option of using an emoji that looks like me. It more closely signifies 'me' when I use a dark brown skinned emoji than the others.
"I'm not sure what a brown, white or black hand signify beyond the thumbs up, OK sign, or pound it (punch) that the gestures stand for."
Piggybacking off what Kyle said, it definitely more closely signifies me (as an individual). Like you said, emoji enhance text-based communication, so why not have these options for skin color?
Diógenes Brito's "Just a Brown Hand" is a good corollary to this conversation.
Why not just change the default to yellow and leave it at that?
This isn't a terrible idea. There was also the idea to remove the yellow default entirely. I think it's the fact that people have to select either a default or a race that causes the issue.