Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why Are There No Black Family Emojis?

First created by Shigetaka Kurita in 1999, emojis have come a long way. From little unicode-based pictures and ideograms used by a savvy few to what looks to be a thoroughly forgettable animated movie and novelty pillows shaped like cartoon poop, emoji are used millions of times a day. Once broad-based support was added for emojis in 2015, the use of emojis have almost become a language in and of themselves.

Since there are a lot people emojis, there has been a lot of controversy over representation and what is seen as the default. For example, "Family" emojis at first didn't depict same-sex couples, and after outcry and discussion, these options were added to the Unicode standard. It makes sense, after all. If there's a way to show a person, you'd like that person to look like you, right?

So why aren't there options to make black family emojis? Jeremy Burge, writing for emojipedia says:
[O]ther emojis all have a choice of skin tones. Why not the families? The answer is that black family emojis are already possibleUnicode supports the sequences required to make emoji families with any combination of people or skin tones.
In 2016, Microsoft used these ZWJ sequences to create white families, black families, and all kinds of variations in between in an update to Windows 10.
When Unicode 8.0 was rolled out in 2015, in addition to adding in stuff like a taco emoji🌮 , the standards group also added in a way to give the human emojis human skin tones in the following ranges: 🏻 🏼 🏽 🏾 🏿.

However, there is currently no way to apply these to the family emoji-- either as a whole or for individual family members. Instead, the family emojis are displayed according to one standard- that the skin tones be rendered in pure yellow. Superficially it might make sense-- after all the smiley face is the same yellow. However, that sort of falls apart after even some cursory consideration, because whiteness is usually taken as the default, even with the "cartoonish" yellow. Look no further than the Simpsons! And as emojipedia pointed out on twitter:
Over 35 percent of Americans identify as a race other than white and while they can text a single emoji that closely resembles their skin color, they can't use it for couple or family.I don't know about you but "it's so hard" isn't an acceptable answer for not including black families, and it seems more like an excuse that reeks of ðŸ’©.

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