Emoji, an ideogram used to convey ideal or concept, was originally contrived by a Japanese software engineer in 1999. Apple has adopted this new way of non-verbal, non-literal communication, and made it take the world by storm.
In order to increase its racial diversity and inclusiveness, Apple launched its racially diverse emoji in its IOS 8.3 update, which incorporated versatile color skin tones (6 color in total) to represent different races. The new emoji reformation should earn Apple a big applaud; however, it pissed off a lot of Apple users, especially the Asians. People in China alleged that the bright yellow tone is so stereotypical, and it is very offensive to Asians. A twitter user, Jade Tran, wrote “Is the yellow emoji supposed to represent Asians because I have never in my life seen an Asian looking like that.”
“A Yellow person,” is usually associated with many historically stereotypical words in the western culture, such as coward, short height, small eyes, feudalism, etc. In reality, not every Asian is superstitious, coward, has small eyes, and short height. (Well, I admit I have small eyes 👀, but all of my friends have big, bright sparkling eyes like this 👁.👁) Also, Asians think it is not fair to call them “yellow”, not only due to the stereotypes, but because Asians do not have such skin color in reality. Therefore, yellow skin is mischaracterization. Referring to this article, if two Asians are in a conversation, do they have to specifically choose the yellow skin emoji to represent themselves? Or do other people should feel compelled to send the yellow skin emoji to their chat people if they are Asians. The racial diverse emoji exacerbates racial distinctions even more, since a person sending a yellow emoji accentuates his/her identity, making it more conspicuous.
Nonetheless, some colored people in U.S. harbored completely opposite opinions. They think Apple is so attentive that the racially diverse emoji, indeed, well-represented their identities. Apple has changed the idea about “white is superior and normal,” according to the quote of Matthew Johnson, MediaSmart director, “Players who are not white and male have to essentially leave some of their self behind and take on this white/male identity in order to participate in [a video game].” Emoji is the first small step towards a more equal, diverse, and powerful society.
From my perspective, I felt awkward, when I used bright yellow emoji at first time. I think it was unnecessary and meaningless to include such diverse skin tones, and I did hesitate about choosing the skin color. I used to think if I use the white emoji, will anyone think I am weird? Nevertheless, I understand the intent of Apple was good, it was aware of underrepresentation of colored people. In fact, it did explain that the bright yellow tone is the default setting, the color did not refer to Asians. However, I still think this reform is hasty, it is much better if they did a survey before releasing the new emoji.