Apple delivered the new beta versions of their operating system updates to developers yesterday. Word quickly spread that the updates (OS X 10.10.3 and iOS 8.3) will include the long-awaited, racially diverse emojis—you’ll be able to tap and hold an emoji to see a selection of several skin tones to choose from. Because now even cartoon pictures depicting emotions—that originated from combining a colon and a parenthesis to make a happy face—have to be politically correct.
The most glaring issue of these racially diverse emojis is, you guessed it, the stereotypical Asian face—a yellow face to classify Asians—because Asians are all Lego people. Using “yellow” to describe Asians is as outdated as labeling us “oriental” and as offensive as calling us “chinks.” Furthermore, this may come as a shock to the designers at Apple but Asians have varying colors of skin tones, just as African Americans and Caucasians do. Apple wouldn’t have fathomed using a dark black color to attribute to all African-Americans but they somehow figured using a bright, jaundice yellow to classify all Asian ethnicities was appropriate. Why even bother giving the illusion of racial sensitivity and promoting diversity when the subsequent emoji is going to be a yellow Chinaman?
An additional problem with providing the exact same emoji in six different colors is that it further focuses on the color of a person's skin in a society where racial equality is still a struggle that affects minorities on a daily basis, as highlighted by the Ferguson protests. While it may have been well intentioned, compounding numerous ethnicities and cultures and reducing them to six colors promulgates the misconception that everyone can be reduced to one skin color and promotes racism.
In response to the criticism of the yellow emoji, an Apple analyst, Rene Ritchie, tweeted:
He further explained that Apple is using a Unicode system and the absence of a specified skin-tone defaults in “a non-human color.”
So you're telling me Apple didn't intentionally choose a yellow emoji to represent an Asian skin tone, but instead, despite Apple declaring China to be one of its most important markets and Asians dominating Silicon Valley tech jobs, it simply failed to include an emoji for Asians, and the closest option we have to choose is a “non-human color”? I don’t know which is worse.