The original racist emoji issue

Over at Ratter, I’ve written about how the unrecognized character symbol is showing up in an unfortunate context with the new emoji-of-color, and how this all relates to an Ur-issue of emoji racism. In my opinion, the moment this became an issue was when Apple exported emoji that mostly looked white to us.

After all, the Unicode Consortium only provides the list of possible emoji to platforms like Apple, Android, and Twitter — it’s up to the platforms to actually draw them. Platforms like Apple got a descriptions from the Unicode Consortium like “HAPPY PERSON RAISING ONE HAND” or “POLICE OFFICER” and they created the pictures we’re all familiar with. Because Apple was one of the first platforms to draw emoji, their versions — which feature mostly white faces — became the canon.

This was harder to write than I expected, but I think it’s an interesting and surprisingly convoluted issue. Hopefully this explanation helps people understand some of the forces at play here.

Published by Parker Higgins

I'm the Director of Special Projects at the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and previously led copyright activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I live and work in Brooklyn, New York. more »