Mi-Fone, a mobile manufacturing company rallying from Africa is bringing racial diversity to emoticons – those small, expressive facial images that we attach to Tweets and comments when there’s no better word. For a while, the internet was in anguish over the not-so-obvious whiteness of all the traditional emoticons, so, now, there’s a sigh of relief. Sort of.
RT if you think there needs to be an #emojiethnicityupdate
— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) December 19, 2012
It makes me mad that there are no black emojis…
— Tahj Mowry (@Tahj_Mowry) March 16, 2014
The controversy was noted on Twitter, as early as 2012 by Miley Ray Cyrus, of all people. Since then, the idea of racially diverse emojis have been spreading far and wide, and this story by Joey Parker on MTV actually got a written response from Apple’s vice president of worldwide corporate communications, Kattie Cotton:
Tim forwarded your email 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.
At oju we have identified a need, we Africans need a voice in today’s modern world, a voice that represents us in the computer driven present and future. An African voice that not only understands the African way, but supports all our diverse cultures and bring to life all our emotions, passions and our warmth as a continent in a proudly African way.
The trouble with racially diverse sources of emoticons may be resolved, but will users actually find them and use them? I’m one of the few Instagram users that don’t interject my captions with illustrated images, so I can’t answer for the racially nervous folks. I do, however, think I should start using these just to let everyone know I am not racist.
Note: There’s also a petition to bring racial diversity to Apple’s emoticons, you can sign it here.