Last week, stories circulated about Apple’s new iOS 8.3 update finally including more diverse emojis. The new emojis feature 6 different skin tones, 32 new nation flags and more same sex couples. Some thought the idea pretty cool and “innovative”.
Others reviewed Apple’s new diverse emojis and felt they still left much to be desired. Many Chinese apple users found the ‘yellow‘ emoji to be an offensive representation of Asians. African Emoji CEO, Alpesh Patel, who released ‘Afro emoticons’ before Apple in 2014 expressed that Apple’s interpretation of ‘diversity’ is limited only to skin color and lacks an appeal to different cultures. I do agree with Patel, as that may be the source of the confusion many Chinese apple users face when thumbing through Apple’s new emoticons and finding only a ‘yellow’ emoji to fit their tastes. Additionally, each emoticon has the exact same face and hair, despite the color changes. Patel’s right. Not much diversity there. His tech company, based in Mauritius, released their Afro emojis for Android devices and have reportedly seen 16,000 downloads, mostly coming from the United States. His own set provide as many fun emojis as stereotypicals ones, making Afro emojis more ‘culturally appealing’ but problematic still. Take a look:
Too many people subscribe to the belief that the West (and maybe China) have the only tech innovators. Therefore, when Apple releases ‘diverse emojis’ they appear to be culturally sensitive and ‘innovative’. An Apple representative even stated to CNN,
Apple supports and cares deeply about diversity, and is working with The Unicode Consortium to update the standard so that it better represents diversity for all of us.
Do you want the truth? I call BS. These diverse emojis are way too long overdue. Emojis were created in Japan in 2010 and Apple incorporated them into their products by 2011. 4 years ago. I find it interesting how it’s taken Apple (a supposed ‘diversity-celebrating’ company,) four years to incorporate emojis that don’t all represent white people–as in, there was not one emoji of another race featured. Not one. As a man of color, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that cultural diversity shouldn’t be a 4-years late after thought, but rather a first priority. Companies that really embrace diversity don’t need 4 whole years, petitions and rallies from Miley Cyrus to finally include people of color and other nationalities into their images.
This is kind of like when the Oscar’s received backlash for how white-washed their awards show would be with barely any African-American films nominated for awards, and then attempted to clean it up by filling the televised show with presenters and performers of color. That was a ‘try’ and ‘fail’ situation, indeed. Much of the general public saw right through it just like many of us see right through Apple.
Diversity deserves to be a priority, not a backburner idea that has to be drawn out with tongue-lashings and bad press. Things like diversity are more about common sense than innovation and even if this was about innovation–Apple is still late on it all.
Because Africa did it first anyway.