Are Emoji Racist?

Perhaps you haven't noticed, but the emoji on your iPhone are overwhelmingly Caucasian. An online petition is asking Apple to change that.

For those of us who can't be bothered to type out actual words in text messages, the hundreds of emoji that are offered among iOS's default Keyboard options are a welcome alternative. But if you look closely, you'll notice that, among emoji with clearly delineated ethnicities, only a handful appear to be non-Caucasian.

A petition on Do Something is asking Apple to add more diversity to its emoji lineup by adding "at least four faces with melanin (a man, a woman, a boy, and a girl) to the emoji keyboard."

From the petition:

If you look at Apple’s emoji keyboard, what do you see? Two different camels. A smiling turd. EVERY PHASE OF THE MOON. But 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.

When Apple upgraded to iOS 6 last June, it added emoji depicting gay and lesbian couples for the first time. It's not the first time, but users are asking Apple to once again consider expanding its emoji catalog to more accurately reflect reality.

[Image: Flickr user IntelFreePress]

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29 Comments

  • Kristine Tsung

    Apple could use BuzzingBOTS emoji... Purple, blue, pink, red, green, yellow, stripes or polka dots. It doesn't matter what color you are. We're all BOTS. Each BOT is beautiful and different. Each one is unique. When we get together, the world is more complete. Just like people, BuzzingBOTS are diverse. For a solution to Apple's diverse emoji problem, check out: http://bit.ly/texoxo-music ... or... visit our website texoxo.com - Buzz Responsibly

  • William Carr

    No, it's not racist.   We need a new word for the Dummies among us.

    You know; the ones that claim NOT catering to their preference makes you racist.

  • Jim L Cunningham

    Frick! I hate being white; I can't even text hands clapping to someone without being called racist. Kill me now!

  • nick woodWARD

    They are pretty racist. It's always easy for white people to sit there and say things like 'Oh they complain too much' but the fact of the matter is racist attitudes are very well entrenched in society. Aple needs to show more diversity. Full stop.

  • Schlomo Bergstein

    You know why clouds are white? They are racist. Do you know why this site background is white? White oppression and racism. Do you know why color exists? Because color is racism. Ban all color. We should be a color neutral world. 

  • kazikian

    I'm surprised no one knows Emojis are originally a Japanese thing. Therefore, if they represent any one race, it's Japanese. It's certainly no surprise that there are no blacks, while Indians and other Japan-neighboring races are included.

  • Mark Benjamin David

    First off, those faces are not white, they're Asian. Before iOS 6, emoji were only available on iPhones/iDevices in Japan! I know, because I saw people using these, wanted to myself, but, found out you had to get a special app/code to enable them on your iPhone in the U.S. ...People kept doing this, so much so that Apple finally gave in with iOS 6 and made it available without a special app or code, and added a few more smileys, symbols and the GBLT people. In fact, if you look, emoji is a keyboard language, one of the Japanese language options. There are pages of these emoji, not just the ones above, but some symbols for food, animals, weather, celebrations, etc.

    Somebody please tell this person to get their facts straight and find something better to do than make this silly, silly, waste of time petition.

    By the way, these emoji can only be shared with people that also have iOS on the other end, so, fine for texting others with iOS devices, but, not others (they'll see several standard characters that represent the code for the emoji instead). This is why apple didn't used to support it outside of Japan, and, here, you have to select it as a keyboard language.

    ...Personally, I kept hoping for a symbol for a slice of pizza :D, they have a bowl of noodles and some other things, but...I guess pizza's not so popular in Japan?

  • whatever

    I am an autistic, dyslexic, bisexual sontaran otherkin.

    Where is an  emoji that represents me?

  • Benjamin Osgood

    Is Fast Company running out of things to report on?  What a waste of time.  

  • JonnyDoH

    As a Chinese guy who frequently pokes fun of myself because of my smallish eyes, I have to say that the FIRST emoji that came to mind as "vaguely Asian" was the emoji two spots to the left of the Indian one-- and my first thought was "Oh damn, that's racist".   -_-

    (This post was written by an Asian American with the hopes of making you all laugh.  I don't warrant this problem to be a primary one we should all focus on, thus I made a joke of my own post.  Have a great day).

  • Tiana Kai

    You totally made me laugh after I investigated which emoji you were referring to. I'm 'caucasian' and my skin isn't yellow and that's the predominate color, what's with that? 

    I want an emoji with freckles, is THAT too much to ask for people?! 

  • Francis

    First venturebeat publishes an article on if an ad featuring the backside of a vaguely androgynous person is sexist against all women and today we have fast company with an article if emojis are racist; huh.

    I'm an entrepreneur with a startup business and I read your magazine and website for the articles on (surprise) startup businesses and the entrepreneurial life, your name is fastcompany for $DEITY's sake.
    I want to read about successful people and companies, new technologies, helpful services and programming tips not something snatched from reddit's firstworldproblems.

    Also to answer the article as per Betteridge's law of headlines the answer is indeed no Emoji are not racist.

  • BillStewart2012

    Sorry, yellow smiley faces don't look Caucasian to me, though I'll agree that they also don't look African.  

    But when I type an emoji, I really want it to look like colon dash close-paren, or whatever other characters I type, and not have some silly application turn it into what their clip-artists thought would be a good substitute.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Every day I wake up hoping today's the day a motherfucking asteroid the size of Denmark crashes into Earth.

  • jbasko

    This is hardly an issue, like seriously... It's an emoticon that is emotion icon... nothing more...