Race and the Default Emoji Skin Tone

Speaking of Eli Schiff, he wrote an interesting piece on race and emoji:

It is therefore quite strange that yellow (white) emoji were set as the default, given that not assuming all users to be white was the entire premise behind making the new diverse set of emoji. In this way, the Unicode Consortium’s efforts to achieve a more inclusive solution only served to doubly reinforce a racism of defaults. […]

It was at this point that the troubling nature of the situation became more clear. It is not simply that it is problematic for whites to use the white emoji, but so too is it racist for them to use the brown shades and the yellow default. In sum, it is racist for whites to use any emoji.

There are two choices going forward: either white users should refrain from using emoji, or an alternative default must be drawn. Perhaps green, blue or purple would be an ideal choice as they don’t have racial connotations.

I’ve been wondering about the decision to use yellow ever since iOS started supporting the skin tone variants. It still seems “sort of white”, in a way that a Smurf-y blue or Hulk-y green would not.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016