In an article by MTV journalist Joey Parker, he flagged the fact that there are no (or very few) non-white emojis in the basic range within most text-message apps used by Apple, Google, and Microsoft. After Parker contacted Apple’s CEO Tim Cook about the issue, he received a reply. It was from Katie Cotton, VP of worldwide corporate communications for Apple.
She told Parker: “Tim forwarded your e-mail 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.”
You can see the standard Unicode list of 800 emojis here. Only two seem to be non-Caucasian: “man with gua pi mao” and “man with turban.” The list is looked after by the Unicode Consortium to ensure consistency and interoperability between mobile devices and carriers.
Since the article was published, a petition has been launched on DoSomething to get Apple to update its default emojis in iOS7. It reads: “Of the more than 800 Emojis, the only two resembling people of color are a guy who looks vaguely Asian and another in a turban. There’s a white boy, girl, man, woman, elderly man, elderly woman, blond boy, blonde girl, and, we’re pretty sure, Princess Peach. But when it comes to faces outside of yellow smileys, there’s a staggering lack of minority representation.”
” Apple has introduced same-sex couple emojis and should therefore diversify the range to include “people of color” according to the petition.
An unlikely spokesperson throughout this debate has been Miley Cyrus, who talked about the need for an “emoji ethnicity update” way back in 2012, and Cyrus’ hashtag #EmojiEthnicityUpdate has been trending on Twitter.
Oju Africa has stepped in launching its own range of black emojis (Oju translates as “faces” in Nigeria’s Yoruba language). Although yhe new emojis have been designed for Android, they will also be released on iOS.
Creative director Eserick Fouché says, “We follow global trends but we are differentiated by our authentic African voice. So as a brand we wanted to do something that only Africa could pull off, something that could become so iconic that it would have the world talking. I believe what we have created will ensure that every African on the planet won’t be able to help but love it!”
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