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These Are the Black Emojis We've Been Waiting For
April 3, 2014 11:54 AM   Subscribe

The Root and International Business Times report that Oju Africa, a division of the company Mi-Fone, released a set of 15 darker-hued emoticons this week — which is about 15 more than Apple has, not counting homeboy with the turban or that Chinese-looking guy.
posted by josher71 (93 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Coooooool. Not entirely sure why Miley Cyrus was concerned with the lack of black emojis, but still glad that a company stepped up to the plate!
posted by Kitteh at 12:05 PM on April 3


Apparently I've been living on Saturn.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 12:09 PM on April 3 [8 favorites]


Emojis, feh. Back in my day we used ASCII emoticons and liked it. Nobody can tell me that :-( is racially exclusive.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:09 PM on April 3 [17 favorites]


YOU CAN'T HAVE CAVES ON A GAS GIANT
posted by xbonesgt at 12:12 PM on April 3 [14 favorites]


From the Apple rep:
“Tim forwarded your email to me. We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.”

This is bullshit, right? They can choose to render unicode characters however they choose, no? Skin color certainly isn't in the unicode emoji standard.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:12 PM on April 3 [18 favorites]


"Homeboy with the turban."
posted by bicyclefish at 12:13 PM on April 3


Also... I had no idea this world existed until I googled "unicode emoji standard".
posted by mr_roboto at 12:14 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


Joke's on whoever the fuck thinks people use emoji.
posted by odinsdream at 12:15 PM on April 3 [6 favorites]


My stepmom is the only one I know who uses emoji. It's always cats.
posted by desjardins at 12:17 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]


I remember when everyone was bald and yellow.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:17 PM on April 3 [18 favorites]


And if Apple was smart, they'd stick with generic cartoon caricatures, and let people load their own emojis.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:19 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Joke's on whoever the fuck thinks people use emoji.

I have a friend who regularly sends people messages entirely in emoji. Thankfully not to me, because I've told her I can't understand them, but she does it. She's a better person than that makes her sound like, I swear.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:21 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


How do you guys wordlessly show your appreciation for a babely selfie without the thirst eyes emoji, though?
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:27 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]


I thought emoji smilies were yellow because smiley faces are traditionally yellow, because yellow is a happy color ("Have a nice day!") and also because black-on-yellow is good contrast for legibility's sake. Speaking on behalf of color-blind people, composing your tiny icon using two similarly dark tones is not the best design choice.
posted by cribcage at 12:31 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


Oh no really, just try to interpret a string of twenty or so from the inlaws with new iphones that live overseas, the new international language.

Oh yes certainly ;-) :-} :-0
posted by sammyo at 12:32 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


☺ ☻
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:34 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]


(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
posted by Foosnark at 12:35 PM on April 3 [18 favorites]


Apparently I've been living on Saturn.

Hey, we must be neighbors! Come on over for dinner sometime. Bring wine.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:57 PM on April 3


filthy light thief: "I remember when everyone was bald and yellow."

That's not entirely true. Some of us were red, blue, pink, and orange.

ᗧ • • • • • • • • • ᗣ ᗣ ᗣ ᗣ
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:57 PM on April 3 [25 favorites]


mr_roboto: That's almost -exactly- what I said to Mrs. jferg when Jon Stewart mentioned this in the episode we watched last night.
posted by jferg at 12:58 PM on April 3


I had no idea that these things were referred to anything other than "emoticons."

I also ignore any message which contains a more than one of these things in a row from anyone over 12.

If I wanted to relive an episode of Concentration I'd watch the Game Show Network at 3 am.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:04 PM on April 3


This is bullshit, right? They can choose to render unicode characters however they choose, no? Skin color certainly isn't in the unicode emoji standard.

Sort of. Because there's only one rendering per character (wtf do they call them in unicode - code points?) you can't have 5 default-smiling-guy emoji only differentiated by skin colour. That's the issue.
posted by GuyZero at 1:08 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


Foosnark: "(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻"

What's the background behind this (what does it mean, jump the bar?) I saw it on a PyCon talk title this year (about handling unicode) so must be a somewhat widely known thing.
posted by Static Vagabond at 1:09 PM on April 3


I'll never quite understand how people get "shocked, shocked!" that something born of pop culture in Japan might, I dunno, be somewhat monocultural in its focus? This reminds me of when people use to get angry at Apple for word definitions in the OS X dictionary features when they didn't even write that content.
posted by trackofalljades at 1:09 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]


It's a dude flipping a table over.
posted by GuyZero at 1:10 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]


I hate it when Skype turns my :-) into a very creepy animated, smiling emoji thing. Ugh.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:15 PM on April 3 [8 favorites]


> And if Apple was smart, they'd stick with generic cartoon caricatures, and let people load their own emojis.

That's a different issue.

The emoji being discussed is a set of characters in Unicode that are represented through fonts.
It is not an application icon set.

Admittedly the distinction is kind of hairsplitty unless you're discussing the specific issue of how fonts are drawn.

However, that happens to be exactly the discussion at hand. So it's important to understand the difference.

Instead of rehashing this, I'll just link to my previous comment. Or skip what I have to say and read Wikipedia's entry on emoji, since that's more or less what I'm rehashing.
posted by ardgedee at 1:17 PM on April 3


Apparently I've been living on Saturn.


Me, too! I thought emojis were the yellow smiley/frowny/etc faces available on my iphone texting thing (app? feature? thing??)
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:19 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


sandettie light vessel automatic: I hate it when Skype turns my :-) into a very creepy animated, smiling emoji thing. Ugh.

Yes animated emoticons are totally unnecessary. I threw some country flags into a recent Skype chat, but I realized they had limited function in our discussion.


The emoji being discussed is a set of characters in Unicode that are represented through fonts.
It is not an application icon set.


But how Apple interprets/displays those characters is different at Apple's application level. There are no colored unicode characters.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:20 PM on April 3


Funny that instead of making black-people versions of the white-people Emoji, they made brown-face versions of the yellow-face Emoji.

A for effort, guys.
posted by BurntHombre at 1:23 PM on April 3


> But how Apple interprets/displays those characters is different at Apple's application level. There are no colored unicode characters.

Specifically, what should be possible is the ability to specify a different font to represent the codespace those characters occupy.

So the first step is for somebody to create a third party emoji font.

Since the handling of emoji is a system-level behavior, the tricky part would be to swap relevant system fonts.
posted by ardgedee at 1:23 PM on April 3


GuyZero: "It's a dude flipping a table over."
Thanks! Seems rather obvious now :)
posted by Static Vagabond at 1:28 PM on April 3


☺ ☻
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:34 on April 3 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]

for the rest of you, those unicode characters are, respectively:
  name: BLACK SMILING FACE
  general-category: So (Symbol, Other)
  decomposition: (9787) ('☻')

  name: WHITE SMILING FACE
  general-category: So (Symbol, Other)
  decomposition: (9786) ('☺')
Apple is full of shit.
posted by idiopath at 1:29 PM on April 3


"There are no colored unicode characters." see above
posted by idiopath at 1:31 PM on April 3


"(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻"

GuyZero: "It's a dude flipping a table over."

Don't laugh at me, but I always thought it was Dogbert flipping a table over. I mean, Dogbert(TM) just seems like that kind of guy.

/derail.
posted by allthinky at 1:38 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


I think what the guy from Apple meant was that they don't have a many-to-one mapping $skin_color to Unicode character emoji architecture. In other words, bijection.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:46 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


I hate it when Skype turns my :-) into a very creepy animated, smiling emoji thing. Ugh.

Yeah, intensive use of AIM in high school is why I always type my smileys as "(:" because I effing hated the insipid crap into which they were changed. Important Matters.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:50 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


Sort of. Because there's only one rendering per character (wtf do they call them in unicode - code points?) you can't have 5 default-smiling-guy emoji only differentiated by skin colour. That's the issue.

I think the issue is that where ever Apple chooses to use an identifiable human skin color on their emoji renderings, that skin color is always white. Except for the turban guy, who's brown, and the Chinese hat guy, who has East Asian features. Apple could have easily chosen ethically diverse renderings: for instance, using white skin on 'older man' (U+1F474) and dark skin on 'information desk person' (U+1F481). Or making 'couple with heart' (U+1F491) interracial!
posted by mr_roboto at 1:51 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


YOU CAN'T HAVE CAVES ON A GAS GIANT

I don't get it. I Googled, but no answer. Can someone explain to the embarrassed guy?
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:55 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


ardgedee: Instead of rehashing this, I'll just link to my previous comment. Or skip what I have to say and read Wikipedia's entry on emoji, since that's more or less what I'm rehashing.

Ah, thanks. Checking the Emoji Wikipedia page, I see that U+1F47x2 is 👲, Chinese man/people, and somewhere in there is 👳, or "turban," which are ethnic-specific emoji within the standard Unicode Regional Indicator Symbols, so specifically knocking Apple for including racial representation those characters is uninformed, while I think the comment on how they rendered the other race-free people glyphs still stands. For example, U+1F47x0 is 👰, bride, and U+1F47x1 is 👱, or blonde female, neither of which are specifically racial in their description. There's also a glyph for old(er) man and old man, snowboarding and surfing people, and other race-free and gender-free caricatures. How these are rendered can be chosen at an application-level, allowing for user preferences to come into play. You don't need to get the Unicode Consortium to add "latino man smiling" and "black woman laughing out loud."
posted by filthy light thief at 1:57 PM on April 3


Apple could have easily chosen ethically diverse renderings

But there's no standard - the sender sees "brown guy surfing" and the receiver on a random Android phone gets a white guy surfing. Random emoji diversity isn't much good in it's not standardized.

How these are rendered can be chosen at an application-level

Again, this is less useful when you have to deal with interoperability between systems.
posted by GuyZero at 2:03 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


Regarding the lack of caves on gas giants (specifically Saturn in this case), this is the notion that there is no solid material making up Saturn, thus you can have no cave. At this point, it seems* the make-up of Saturn's core is unknown, but there is speculation that there is some solid core, or it might be a liquid metallic mixture similar to all of the gas giants. It is a liquid core, then there are no caves to be had, and thus you cannot inhabit a cave on Saturn, unless you're talking about Cueva de Saturno, or Saturn's Cave, in Matanzas, Cuba, but that's a flooded cave system, so you really wouldn't be likely to live there, either.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:04 PM on April 3 [10 favorites]


GuyZero: Random emoji diversity isn't much good in it's not standardized.

As it is, iPhone users can send Emoji that aren't recognized on Droids (I don't know what it was, I was on the receiving end, and I only saw the code block indicating that there should be something there, but my system didn't recognize it). Also, chat apps already lack consistency between each-other for emoticons, and I'm assuming it's the same for emoji. For example, here are three different emoji renderings, including the smiling droid for some Android apps.

There is no consensus, so providing users the option to load their own glyphs is will only further diversify an already diverse universe of graphical representations of characters.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:09 PM on April 3


It's worth noting that Google has sidestepped this issue in Android by using its (frankly obnoxious) little Android figures for the emoji, as seen in mr_roboto's first link. It is really duplicitous of Apple to blame this on Unicode, it would be quite easy for them to make the selection of ethnicities that display more diverse.
posted by whir at 2:10 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Wait -- "black smiley face" is white and "white smiley face" is see-through -- do they mean if I print it out, it would sorta match the names?

BUT PRINT IS DEAD
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:13 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


potsmokinghippieoverlord: how unprofessional
posted by idiopath at 2:15 PM on April 3


There is no consensus, so providing users the option to load their own glyphs is will only further diversify an already diverse universe of graphical representations of characters.

Well, no, because if I wanted to text my friend a message that's like generic-smiling-black-person-emoji generic-smiling-chinese-person-emoji generic-smiling-white-person-emoji there's no way to do it as there's only a character for generic-smiling-person-emoji. (aside from the one single example of the black/white face emoji noted above)
posted by GuyZero at 2:16 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


💩
posted by odinsdream at 2:19 PM on April 3 [7 favorites]



potsmokinghippieoverlord: how unprofessional


(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:24 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


⛇ ← black snowman
posted by idiopath at 2:28 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Filthy light thief wrote: At this point, it seems* the make-up of Saturn's core is unknown, but there is speculation that there is some solid core, or it might be a liquid metallic mixture similar to all of the gas giants.

Wait a minute. You're saying that you might have solid matter deep in Uranus, not just tons of gas?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:28 PM on April 3 [7 favorites]


This is one of those things that never occurred to me would be an issue, but in hindsight seems really obviously problematic.

You know, we wouldn't have this problem if all emojis were just rendered with cat faces. Just sayin.
posted by heathkit at 2:30 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia: Wait a minute. You're saying that you might have solid matter deep in Uranus, not just tons of gas?

Don't ask me, I'm just quoting an interne.... hey, I see what you're doing. Space is srs bznss!
posted by filthy light thief at 2:36 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Re: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

It's flipping a chabudai (a low table), a Japanese sight gag. "Chabudai gaeshi" if you want to be an annoying otaku.

Which takes me to the article illustration, which depicts a guy in dogeza in the third row middle and the Japanese body language signs for "ok" and "no good" in the two girl emojis to the left in the second row.

Mukokuseki is the Japanese for "unmarkedness". People tend to think of mukokuseki cartoons as belonging to their own race, which is why people think that these three emoji doing very Japanese gestures are white, because the women aren't dressed like geisha and the guy isn't a Toho-style caricature with buck teeth and round glasses.

(It never ceases to amaze me the sheer Japanese-ness of the emoji collection-- there's everything from ebi tempura or naruto and mitarashi dango or matcha tea to the kimono icon to festivals like Hina Matsuri or Tanabata to shinkansen to the Great Wave of Kanagawa to Mount Fuji. Sheesh.)
posted by sukeban at 2:43 PM on April 3 [13 favorites]


It never ceases to amaze me the sheer Japanese-ness of the emoji collection

Yeah, it's definitely the American concept of race and skin colour meeting the Japanese notion of race and skin colour and associated signifiers. (Seriously, would an American-designed emoji collection have a guy in a turban? I suspect not)
posted by GuyZero at 2:46 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


┬─┬ノ( º _ ºノ)
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:47 PM on April 3 [19 favorites]


Yeah, intensive use of AIM in high school is why I always type my smileys as "(:"

I'm not sure why, but whenever I see a smiley done this way I feel the need to turn my head sideways to see it properly. ":)" does not require this for whatever reason.
posted by brundlefly at 3:17 PM on April 3


> It never ceases to amaze me the sheer Japanese-ness of the emoji collection-- there's everything from ebi tempura or naruto and mitarashi dango or matcha tea to the kimono icon to festivals like Hina Matsuri or Tanabata to shinkansen to the Great Wave of Kanagawa to Mount Fuji.

But no damn tacos.
posted by ardgedee at 3:19 PM on April 3


Are noses required in emoticons?

:-) v. :)
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 3:19 PM on April 3


o_O
posted by brundlefly at 3:21 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]


But no damn tacos.

Surely you mean döner kebap.
posted by sukeban at 3:23 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Man, what a shock that something developed in Japan, for Japanese people, would be striking in its Japan-ness. The mind reels. Good thing we Americans are always so good at always being culturally neutral with, say, ASCII, to pick an example at random.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:24 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


I don't see what's wrong with traditional yellow smilies. It avoids the whole issue. Emojis don't need to be mixed up with racial politics any more than letters or numerals do.

Failing that, we could use an ambiguous shade of light brown. You know, like those models from stock photographs that have the uncanny ability to look white, black, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian, and Indian, all at the same time.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:24 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


Windows 7 used this brown-skinned guy.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:30 PM on April 3


escape from the potato planet: I think the problem is that the Japanese audience prefers Mukokuseki faces over yellow faces and the Emoji standard originated from this market. I do actually think the correct solution is to build more codepage entries into the standard.

Good on Apple for putting in U+1F46C and U+1F46D, though.
posted by whittaker at 3:42 PM on April 3


omg emojis are so much more than smiley faces you guys

home alone cat face!
posted by mmmbacon at 3:43 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


Oh god yes I hate when my Android phone turns :) into a little smiling green robot, if I'd wanted a robot I'd have used -('-')- or something.
posted by emjaybee at 3:55 PM on April 3


Kirby!
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:04 PM on April 3


> "There are no colored unicode characters." see above

The descriptive schema for ☺ U+263B and ☻ U+263A are functional, not racial. The black character is white if the text is white. The white character has no color; it's just an outline, and will appear black if the text is on a black background. And note that Unicode has no black counterpart to ☹ WHITE FROWNING FACE U+2639.

They're not part of the emoji codespace anyway.

Note that Apple's drawing of the emoji smileys are actually riffs off the yellow "Have a Nice Day" smiley designed in the 1960s. It's an abstraction of a facial expression rather than a white person's face. Criticizing a group of yellow faces on grounds of race gets into a weird area.

The emoji based specifically on human representation rather than abstracted expressions, such as 👫 U+1F46B, 💁U+1F481 and 👶 U+1F476, are open for criticism. Races should be accommodated. And note that Android uses white skin tones for those figures as well.
posted by ardgedee at 4:10 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]


White smiley face and black smiley face are not emoji. They are also not colored characters, except insofar as any alphabetic character is the colour of the ink/stroke colour and/or paper/background colour.

(edit: as ardgedee says. Jinks!)
posted by five fresh fish at 4:11 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]


I always thought the entire reason they were simpsons colors was to avoid them being any specific race.

goes to show what i know though, i guess.
posted by emptythought at 4:53 PM on April 3


_██_
ಠ_ರೃ

I use this emoticon for ALL moods and emotions.
posted by Fizz at 4:55 PM on April 3 [9 favorites]


Mukokuseki is the Japanese for "unmarkedness". People tend to think of mukokuseki cartoons as belonging to their own race, which is why people think that these three emoji doing very Japanese gestures are white....

Yeah, so some of the people who are complaining about this are black, and they do not think that these cartoons belong to their own race.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:41 PM on April 3


1) I am amazed y'all use emoji in the west. Like, when do you use U+1F38B, or U+1F38D, or U+1F38F? Or, to step away from holidays and into the everyday world, U+1F392? (Oh, and props at least to Apple for using the girls' school satchel, not the boys' school satchel).

2) Oju doesn't appear to be thinking very hard about this, nor do a lot of people discussing this. The issue is not that the basic emotion emoji (U+1F601 to U+1F637) aren't black. Those emoji aren't any human color, they're smiley-face-yellow, which makes it weird to me that of all the emoji, those were the ones Oju decided to remake. The issue is emoji like U+1F645 or U+1F466 or U+1F474 or U+1F46A. These are not smiley face yellow, they are human colored, and they are non-black (too small to tell if they're supposed to be white, or Hispanic, or Asian, or what, but it's pretty clear that they're not black).
posted by Bugbread at 7:52 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Just send some extra control characters to change the color. Or change the font. Weak sauce apple spokesperson.

Also, did some thread about gas giants get merged into this one?
posted by Joe Chip at 9:22 PM on April 3


I am deeply opposed to this new step in virtual communication. Black people do not deserve to be emojiified. No one does. It's a terrible crime and they should have stopped before they got to racially-ambiguous-turban-man and inexplicably-happy-poop-piles.
posted by NapAdvocacy at 9:29 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


Yeah, so some of the people who are complaining about this are black, and they do not think that these cartoons belong to their own race.

I totally agree that we need more brown people emoji, I just don't read most human emojis in the usual set as Caucasian.
posted by sukeban at 10:08 PM on April 3


Also, did some thread about gas giants get merged into this one?

I confess that I am mystified by this as well, although I also flagged a post in the April Fool AskMe askapalooza (and I NEVER flag stuff) so I admit that I could be especially dim.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:19 PM on April 3


When emoji first came out for the iphone they were only for the Japanese market, and you had to install an app to even get them to work on the American phone. They're a barely supported feature that apple only implemented because the Japanese market demanded it -- they've never pushed it in the US.
posted by empath at 10:37 PM on April 3


And, btw, Google's implementation of emojis in gmail is exactly as mono-racial.
posted by empath at 10:39 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


The solution is to just not use emoji. :-|
posted by five fresh fish at 10:49 PM on April 3


You'll have to pry them from my cold, rigor mortissed hands. (Sorry, I've been using them for like 13 or 14 years now)
posted by Bugbread at 10:56 PM on April 3


When they broadcast the Simpsons in the UK, every episode is randomly chroma shifted by a consistent amount to… no, I can't keep this up.
posted by davemee at 11:00 PM on April 3


BugBread: Unicode emoji? They are different from emoticons. :-/
posted by five fresh fish at 11:05 PM on April 3


Emoji have been used here in Japan since 1999 or 2000 or so, and I think the first phone I got with emoji support was around 2001. Emoji only got brought into Unicode in 2010 (and from what I can tell on the Unicode charts, it doesn't look like any characters were added or removed when that happened), but they've been around for way longer. Plus, if you're in Japan, every single one of them, except for U+303D, makes sense.
posted by Bugbread at 11:17 PM on April 3


Yeah, this isn't really an Apple issue except inasmuch as someone asked somewhere there about this and someone there said a thing. It could just as easily be described as a Google/Android issue, except that editors know how to put together an effective clickbait headline.

That said, it is completely true that this thing developed in and for Japan is kind of racially myopic, because that's just sort of how race is in Japan. Japan is a stunningly homogenous society, and of the vanishingly few visible minorities you'll see there, a small fraction of that small fraction are non-white, and the vast majority of the brown people you'll see if you live in Japan run restaurants. Japan is a country that has some pretty weird and significant issues with race, but they're largely the sort of issues born of ignorance rather than malice.

Now that emoji are a thing that have spread internationally primarily through the happy accident of their being available on iPhones,* it is a totally valid thing to potentially address the fact that they're pretty much all light-skinned, but that really is something to be left to the Unicode consortium — emoji are a standards-based font that just happens to be in color, and as such simply adding your own would break intercompatibility just as quickly as unilaterally deciding that the ` key should produce an interrobang and that it should be mapped to some new and yet unused Unicode value.

*It really is just a matter of Apple giving a collective shrug and saying "have at" when it comes to emoji availability outside of Japan. Absolutely zero effort has been put into localizing the emoji font glyphs in any way, leaving a fair amount of straight-up Japanese text in there. The argument could conceivably be made that, as something intended for a single market that, in aggregate, has no real issues with it, it would be kind of a waste of effort to work on changing the emoji glyphs in any significant way.
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:35 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]


DoctorFedora: "That said, it is completely true that this thing developed in and for Japan is kind of racially myopic, because that's just sort of how race is in Japan. Japan is a stunningly homogenous society, and of the vanishingly few visible minorities you'll see there, a small fraction of that small fraction are non-white, and the vast majority of the brown people you'll see if you live in Japan run restaurants. Japan is a country that has some pretty weird and significant issues with race, but they're largely the sort of issues born of ignorance rather than malice."

The impression you're giving is a kind of "Japanese have weird issues with race, so emoji reflect those". While I agree that Japanese have weird issues with race, I don't think they're reflected in emoji. If emoji were an Apple creation, in the US, you could rightly point out "Dude, you're completely ignoring 12% of the US population by not having a single black emoji. That's fucked up!" But the numbers are so different in Japan its not really a comparable situation.

(number wank time) Japan's population in 2012 was 127 million. Its non-Japanese population in 2012 was 2 million. If we assume (and I think it's a safe assumption) that a negligible number of the Chinese, Koreans, Taiwanese, Thais, or Vietnamese are black, that leaves us with a foreign population of 735,000. Even if we go as far assuming that every single one of these people is black, that's still 0.6%. That means that for every two hundred non-yellow emoji, there should be one black emoji to accurately reflect society. And that's using the silly assumption that every Filipino, Peruvian, American, etc. is black. If we assume that number is more like 15%, reflecting the racial composition of America (with the understanding that some countries will have a higher percentage, and some lower), you're looking at more like 110,000 black people in Japan, which breaks down to 0.08%. In other words, there should be one black emoji for every one thousand one hundred fifty one non-black emoji to be proportionally representative.

If there's anywhere that the emoji reflect Japan's racial outlook, it would be in U-1F471, U-1F472, and U-1F473 (white guy, Chinese guy, and Indian guy), not in the lack of black people throughout the rest of the emoji set.
posted by Bugbread at 12:11 AM on April 4


(Sorry, for clarity's sake: I know you're also saying that there are very few non-Asians in Japan. I'm just saying that the homogeneity of the country creates cultural race issues, and it creates an emoji set without black people, but that the lack of black people is not indicative of, nor is it caused by, those cultural race issues.)
posted by Bugbread at 12:51 AM on April 4


Feedback from a different perspective.

This link and the accompanying image has been my as-of-now highest viewed post on an Africa oriented news website I maintain. The comments from the audience (mainly young African diaspora members) has been off the charts in their approval, except for one nasty racist comment.

Apparently, the Africans, for whom this African company released this, love them.
posted by infini at 6:24 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]


¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by judson at 7:45 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]


Yeah, for a device aimed solely at the African market, simply having an all-black-people emoji set is probably the smartest thing to do.
posted by GuyZero at 9:05 AM on April 4


Yeah I wasn't at all trying to say that this is a bad idea. If it were me implementing it, I'd let the user set a default skin tone just like pretty much every rpg character generator ever made.
posted by empath at 9:11 AM on April 4


I wasn't trying to say that either, even when I said "Oju doesn't appear to be thinking very hard about this". I didn't mean their idea was dumb or bad, just that it was a simple idea, not really based on an analysis of whether emoji are white or non-white or the like, or which emoji in the set were racially marked versus racially unmarked, or any other beanplating like that.
posted by Bugbread at 9:17 AM on April 4


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