White Skin, Black Emojis?

A set of expressive cartoon hands making a variety of gestures.

Excerpt from this article:

My daughter, a very conscious 15-year-old queer, white girl, has recently started using black hand emojis. We discuss race and politics all the time at home. She even listens to your podcast with me sometimes. We live in a diverse neighborhood of a diverse city. As a family and on her own, our daily lives include many friendships and interactions with POC. So my question is, do I speak to her about using the emojis??


Emoji diversity: how ‘silly little faces’ can make a big difference

‘Emoji may seem trivial, but when you aren’t represented by something that’s so widely used, it’s a problem,’ says researcher Kate Miltner.

Excerpt from this article (thanks for the link, Paul M!):

Emoji users feel a significant ownership over these tiny digital symbols, as evidenced by the reaction when Apple swapped the gun emoji for a water pistol and changed the peach emoji to look less like a butt, or when a Saudi teen designed her own headscarf-wearing emoji…

Yet there are more serious cultural problems highlighted by the rise of emoji, particularly how to make them more inclusive to people of different races, genders and physical abilities. Until a range of skintones were introduced for emoji in 2015, there were no options for making emoji anything other than white (or cartoon yellow) – and even the new set of modifiers were only introduced after public outrage about lack of diversity…

“Emoji may seem trivial, just silly little faces, but when you aren’t represented by something that’s so widely used, it’s a problem. The values either intentionally – or unintentionally – baked into the systems we use on a daily basis can deeply impact people and how they navigate their world,” said Miltner, a PhD student at USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, who conducted extensive interviews with, and analyzed hundreds of emails from, the Unicode Consortium, the official body which standardizes emoji.

What Chewbacca Mom’s rise to fame tells us about race in this country

chewbacca mom

Excerpt from this article:

…[Chewbacca Mom] Payne went on to receive a bigger prize than most viral stars are used to seeing. Payne, her husband and two children were given a tuition-free attendance to Southeastern University, a private Christian college in Lakeland, Florida… It’s true, free tuition is an oversized prize for such easily begotten fame. It’s also true that the real rewards typically reaped for online success tend to heavily favor insta-celebrities who are white. Content derived from black users of Twitter, Vine, or Snapchat is often sidelined as part of a monolithic Black Twitter. Black users of social media often have a comparable—if not larger—effect on the digital conversation and create moments, pictures, jokes, and movements that deeply root themselves into the mass culture. Yet, as Payne’s success highlights, that’s often ignored when it comes to big payouts for fleeting social media fame.

The most famous example of this is likely the story of Kayla Newman, aka Peaches Monroee. In 2014, Newman uploaded a Vine to show off her new eyebrow threading and famously uttered the phrase “eyebrows on fleek.”

The video popularized, if not coined, the term “on fleek” which has since been used by marketers and clothing companies with zero credit to Newman.… “I gave the world a word,” Newman told Fader Magazine. “At the moment I haven’t gotten any endorsements or received any payment. I feel that I should be compensated. But I also feel that good things happen to those who wait.”


Pew Study finds race conversations noticeably absent from white people’s timelines

Excerpt from this article:

…According to a recent Pew Research Study, 67 percent of white social media users say they never post or share posts about race on their timelines.

This might not come as a surprise as conventional etiquette tends to shy from public discussions about hot button, passion-inducing topics like politics, race and religion. And for those who don’t have to deal with the daily stresses of racism, talking about race can feel daunting or overwhelming.

Conversely, the study reveals that black users are less likely to skirt the conversation. According to the Pew Study, “Some 28% of black social media users say at least some of the things they share or post on social networking sites are about race or race relations, including 8% who say this applies to most of their posts.” And only 42 percent of black social media users said that they never post or share posts about race on their timelines.

Joy of a Black Planet

Illustration by Erik Carter

Excerpt from this article:

In 2011, Zim Ugochukwu was traveling on the Jagriti Yatra, a 15-day train trip through India for aspiring entrepreneurs. Her time in India wound up sparking an idea for a start-up, though perhaps not in the way the trip’s organizers intended. Ugochukwu was struck by the fact that, out of a group of about 500, she was one of just three African-Americans. She thought about how mainstream travel publications, even those online, weren’t speaking to them or their experiences. ‘‘When I searched ‘black travel’ on Google, I saw a black suitcase,’’ she said. ‘‘That’s not what I meant.’’

In September 2013, Ugochukwu created Travel Noire, a resource for black globe-trotters, continuing in a long online tradition of pulling together otherwise diffuse groups of like-minded people: tattoo artists on Pinterest, gamers on Reddit, and so on. In keeping with the times, Travel Noire is more of a brand than a publication, taking on many incarnations: a website, a vivid Instagram account and private forums. ‘‘I wanted to create a place for people to dream about a destination and read about how another person did it,’’ Ugochukwu said.

Why White People Don’t Use White Emoji

Excerpt from this article:

When they were first launched in 2015, emoji skin tones corrected an obvious wrong. Previously, if a black man or a Latino woman wanted to text a friend the thumbs-up emoji on an iPhone, a white hand would show up…

But as emoji with skin tones spread to Twitter, Facebook, and workplace chat applications like Slack, I noticed something I hadn’t expected: …almost no one I knew used the lightest skin tone, or even the second-lightest. Indeed, as a white man who tends to be either pale or sunburnt, I had never considered using it myself. When I did switch briefly to the lightest tone at work, it felt … weird.

…this effect may also signal a squeamishness on the part of white people. The folks I talked to before writing this story said it felt awkward to use an affirmatively white emoji; 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 carries.  At the same time, they said, it feels like co-opting something that doesn’t exactly belong to white people—weren’t skin-tone modifiers designed so people of color would be represented online?