From Equality to Racism/Sexism (Emoticon Edition)

Posted By Aung Nay on Mar 1, 2015


I believe diversity is humanity’s greatest asset. But Apple’s new emoticons are the perfect example of diversity gone wrong. It’s what happens when over-zealot well-intentioned digitally-ignorant people tries to fix what’s not broken. Applying diversity to emoticons is a perfect case of such groups pushing their myopic views on our digital world.

We are taught to be aware of our diversity and that recognizing our uniqueness gives us an understanding of our value to society. I am a male Burmese, descendant of Sino-Tibetans with strong Indian influence. Not surprisingly, my country is right between China and India. So which color do I pick in this creative spectrum of jaundice to black. And can I only express my emotions in one color, which is representative of me and something I still can’t identify? So far, the only certainty I have is that I am a male. But I am guessing others will have similar difficulty with gender identification as I have with picking the right color.

Apple Emoticons

That’s why my stress starts and extends well beyond that point. Emoticons are suppose to be symbols that express my feelings such as being happy, sad and etc quickly in messages. With this new set of emoticons, I have to wonder, is my male jaundice+dark-brown happiness the same as the white female happiness or black male happiness? So, my problem becomes how quickly can I identify what my emotions are and expressing them with the right kind of skin tone. Also for example, can a Moroccan use the jaundice happy face to express happiness for Chinese New Year. Or is that racist? What color should I use at Christmas? Do I pick, Jesus’ skin color, Santa’s skin color or some God I have never seen before? What’s the right thing to do?

I am confused and I hate how a casual digital expression of my emotions has turned into a complex racial and gender dilemma. Is this really the world that I am forced to live in, the world that constantly pigeonholes everything into mutually exclusive categories?

Is this a crappy first attempt to be diversity aware digitally? But wait! Even such attempt with good intention is taking away one of the most precious things about our digital existence. Our ability to express simple emotions equally without racial hindrances. My digital happiness was equal. But it won’t be much longer. Is my digital happiness more or less based on the color of my skin and gender in real life now?

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