Update: No Emojis Without Representation! Do Black People Need Black Emojis?

November 4, 2014  |  

Apple/ Black Emoji LLC


Update Business Insider reports in the upcoming version of Unicode, emojis will be updated to reflect characters of all skin tones. The Unicode Consortium addressed the need for more diverse emojis in their latest report. The organization stated:

“People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone. The Unicode emoji characters for people and body parts are meant to be generic, yet following the precedents set by the original Japanese carrier images, they are often shown with a light skin tone instead of a more generic (inhuman) appearance, such as a yellow/orange color or a silhouette.Unicode Version 8.0 is adding 5 symbol modifier characters that provide for a range of skin tones for human emoji. These characters are based on the six tones of the Fitzpatrick scale, a recognized standard for dermatology (there are many examples of this scale online, such as FitzpatrickSkinType.pdf). The exact shades may vary between implementations.”

This tech report debuted yesterday, November 3, so we will keep you updated once Black emojis become officially available.

Original story: March 28, 2014

IPhone users adore them. Android users feel some type of way when they cannot see them on texts. They illustrate our feelings. Most importantly, they made their first music video debut to re-create Beyonce and Jay Z’s “Drunk In Love.” They are emojis, the cute cartoon icons you can download for free from Apple’s app store.

The other day, my childhood friend tagged me in a post about Black emojis. Although I majored in Black Studies and work at an online magazine for black women, I never gave much thought about the lack of diversity in the world of emojis. I thought the post would turn into a moment of hilarity shared among black people but quickly realized I was wrong. According to The Los Angeles Times, Apple received an email from MTV to make emoji icons more racially inclusive after a tweet from actor Tahj Mowry.

The email was sent to  Apple’s Chief Executive Tim Cook. Apple’s vice president of worldwide corporate communications, Katie Cotton responded:  “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.”

The Unicode standard is used by various programs and allows apps/platforms to display text or icons the same as one another. Unicode is controlled by a consortium and not by Apple. Therefore, Apple cannot automatically issue an update. For there to be black emojis, the Unicode consortium needs to accept changes to the standard. In other words, until the emoji creators decide to update the icons, users who want a more diverse set emojis are better off using Black Emoji by Black Emoji LLC. Beware though, it’s not free.

MadameNoire did a quick unscientific survey of a group of college-educated people for their thoughts about their representation in the emoji world.

Black Women Share Their Thoughts On Purchasing Black Emojis:

“I would use them but I wouldn’t pay for them. I can speak my feelings for free.” -M. Ogbeab

“Def wouldn’t pay for them. The other emojis are free, so why should the black ones cost money? I would most certainly use them, as long as they aren’t offensive. They could also get some Caribbean/African flags up there too.”- D. Brissett

“Why should I have to pay for the black emoji while the white emoji is free. No I don’t think so. I would use them if it was free. The black emoji has to be natural too!! But I still won’t purchase it.”- T. Cudjoe

“I’m not paying to be discriminated against! Where are the emojis that represent the caramel colored? Black isn’t just one shade! Why are all the black female emojis looking less than enthused? Black women aren’t ever happy?” – M. Bunbury

“Black people have many things to worry about and emoji representation is on the lower end of the spectrum of our worries. Would it be nice to see black emojis-YES. Would I (or should I) pay for them, when other emojis are free-NO. However, it is 2014, the NEW WORLD has been discovered. Other people exist, besides white people. Why is it so hard to have emojis that represent POC (People Of Color) period?” – C. Hairston

“More Caribbean flags. I really don’t have a preference on the race of the emoji. Lol aren’t they yellow! And besides, the ones that look like people could be light skin! Lol. But you know, one with dreads wouldn’t hurt lol!” -N. Bourne

“I literally say this all the time. Where are the POC emojis?! I can’t identify with the white ones. Fyi I would totally use the emoji of the guy with the beard. My
Bf looks like that.” – J. Bautista

“People always want to make a profit off of the Black identity.We are usually misunderstood and underrepresented as is… Then you want to charge? Ha!”- F. Harvey

What Do White People/Asians Think About This Issue?

“Yes I would use them but don’t think I would pay. I love emojis and think they are fun and can enhance writing (especially considering how much I communicate via mobile typing these days), but don’t use the people emojis much because they don’t feel inclusive.” – Z. Teague

” I would never pay for an emoji, unless it was one of a Bills jersey and we were going to the superbowl–which will never happen, so no.  I didn’t even know there were little white people, but I say yes, make them for all races and ethnicities. Some of my family is black and some Hispanic… but I’m white, so would I send them one that looks like them or me? Depends I guess lol. I would not be surprised if someone makes an app with generic faces and bodies and you click which color to fill it. And I bet no one chooses yellow! And can we get a polish flag or a pussywillow too? Dyngus day is our one holiday!” – C. Skrzypek

” I personally feel as if a middle eastern/south Asian line of emojis existed, i’d feel more inclined to use them. I’m guessing for many the same holds true when it comes to black emojis. Paying for them is wrong though. I say the emojis for your skin color should come standard on your phone and if you must pay for them it ought to only be for emojis of other skin colors or those crazy animal emojis.” – A. Ghuman

Regardless of what you think, this issue allows for conversation about how black people are represented in the media. We hope the new black emojis made will not be offensive or stereotypical, like the ones we found during research today.

Let us know your thoughts:  Do you think black people need black emojis? 


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  • Also saying!!!

    Yes I most certainly find it very important to have POC (people of color)!! We were hoping the monkey icon wasn’t supposed to represent us blacks!! My teenage daughter thought that for a split second!
    No charge/ fee should be applied for the “upgrade”.

  • ☥Neithhotep☥

    I’ma just say this- there is nothing wrong with making white and black this or that. But have them in harmony- don’t have a white section, and don’t have a black section. That “seperate water fountains means shorter lines for everyone!” crap is so wrong, it’s backazzwards.

    I see this in video games, and it irks me. I can’t play a game unless I’m in full control of character creation because there aren’t many games where a black woman is the lead character BY RIGHT. The only games I know of that have solely a black female lead is Enter the Matrix, Urban Chaos, and AC: Liberation.

    Sorry, back on point: Basically, if you’re gonna design something that reflects/mirrors humans, include ALL humans. We got white humans, we got black humans, we got brown humans, we got yellow humans- design that into the core package.

  • AJ

    They are just emojis though, it’s not that serious… But the Caribbean flags idea sounds good.

    And from what I have seen on twitter, ironically, it’s mostly white people who have problems with white emojis. Black people kind of don’t care really because it is not that important.

  • Trisha_B

    I use the smiley/ yellow face emojis. So the others don’t matter to me..but I do agree w/ the comment on Caribbean flags!

    But this comment tho-” I’m not paying to be discriminated against! Where are the emojis that represent the caramel colored? Black isn’t just one shade! Why are all the black female emojis looking less than enthused?

    A case of doing too much…none of the emojis of other races are smiling or looking happy, except the yellow smiley faces. & are they really fussing about shades? As if the other emojis come in shades of pale white & pink white smh. I agree w/ others, far more important things to complain about

  • JaneSmith100

    I thought emojis were yellow. I never use them and would NEVER pay for a set of them.

  • soisaid

    REALLY??? is it that damn serious? its an emoji for petes sake… smh

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  • MrUniteUs1

    Where’s the Black man

  • Bianca Williams

    I say of course we do! Because If emojis were all black, white people would’ve been complaining and crying about it the first day anybody knew anything about emojis..

  • Whitney

    Can we please pick our battles a LITTLE bit better? Jesus…

    • ☥Neithhotep☥

      Any little battle that furthers the point home of how things need to change I greatly accept.

      The more we say, “pick our battles”, the smaller the list of what is really wrong is.

      To each his own, and I respect your ideas, but I’d never dismiss a chance to look at something and wonder how it could be equally better for anyone who wants to be involved.

  • Just saying!!

    Crap like this is part of why we have such a hard time moving forward. Are we really this simple? All the issues we have in our community and you simple people are worried about emoticons!? Get out of here.

    • Rosi WZ

      seriously??? I can think of almost no other issue that affects the black community globally than one that reaches millions of people across every corner of the planet. Everyone that has a mobile phone is sensitised/ desensitised to humans represented for communication as white only. It makes me very sad that anyone would find this trivial.

      • ☥Neithhotep☥

        To be fair- when I see a little yellow smiley face, I don’t see black, white, or asian. I just see smiley face. Maybe we need to ignore the need for realistic skin colors and just have it be fun colors, like yellow, pink, etc etc.

    • Ejira Films

      Well if you take away the emoji aspect and replace it with something like Black people being represented on television you see the bigger issue of lack of representation of Black people in the media…..and we all know the importance of seeing people who look like us in the media.

    • ☥Neithhotep☥

      I think it’s something BOTH races need to look at. Why does the white person feel the need to design things with only white people in mind, and vice versa? Not that anyone can’t use them, just that it’s not representative of the people that would.