Why Are There No Black Emojis?

Dustin and I spend a lot of time talking about race. We’ve spent the last seven months reading books about being Black in America, autobiographies of influential Africans and African Americans, and books about Africa. Dustin started going to Vernon Winfrey’s (Oprah’s dad) barber shop that is close by our house to get his hair cut. We’ve had some candid conversations with our white, Black, and racially diverse family friends about race. We started watching Chappelle’s Show (HaHa), and we’ve made a point to have pictures up in our house that are racially diverse. We had to take online classes for our adoption agency that focused on race and being a non-traditional family. We aren’t trying to draw unnecessary attention to race or make something more of the subject than need be. We are trying to learn, prepare and understand, though.

It’s important to us that our son knows about his Ugandan culture and heritage. It’s important to us that he knows about being Black in America. It’s important to us that he never feels like he’s the only one with different color skin in our little world. It’s important to us that the toys, books and movies we buy are racially diverse. It’s important to us that he has Black role models and people who can speak truth into his life. It’s important to us that he has white, Hispanic, Indian, etc. role models and people who can speak truth into his life.  It’s important to us that he isn’t the only kid in our circle who has different color skin than his parents. We don’t plan on constantly pointing out that he is Black or that we are a different color than he is but we do want him to know that we love, value and respect his heritage, culture, and people that don’t look like us. If we ever have white kids we’d want the same for them.

The other night we received our first gift for the little guy. My parents had taken my youngest sister to visit the college we graduated from and had picked up some sweet ACU swag for him. We were excited and the clothes were precious so we took a picture. I wanted to post it on social media and include an emoji (see picture below) with the picture. I had just downloaded the app and wasn’t familiar with what my options were but I was thinking I’d put a cute picture of a Black child or one of a family that is racially diverse.
I scrolled through every single one of the above pictures. No Black people. Surely there is a mistake, I thought. There’s a salsa dancer and an octopus but no Black people? I scrolled back through. Nothing. There’s a camel, for heavens sake, but no Black people. I scrolled through one more time thinking I could at least find one that was just not white. Nope. Well, there is one that is not white but he’s wearing a turban and that didn’t fit my picture anyways. I could have put a picture of the white baby but that’d be stupid because my baby isn’t white. I could have put the picture of that white family but that’d also be dumb because that isn’t what my family looks like. So, I settled on the smiley face with the heart eyes. I didn’t even know at this point.

I spent some time today reading articles about why there are no emoji faces of color. Because this isn’t just about the fact that there are no Black faces; there are no non-white faces, and that just doesn’t make any sense. I’ve read that it isn’t Apple’s fault, they didn’t create the app. I’ve read that people in Japan created the app, and the defense is the fact that Japan isn’t a very racially diverse place, so that’s why all the emoji faces are white. I hear all of that, and I get it. I’m not mad at Apple; I realize the people who created the emoji app have nothing to do with Apple. It’s not Apple’s fault, but Emoji’s, that this app does not promote racial equality.

In reality it just made me sad. Sad that it’s almost 2014 and we’re creating and using apps that are so racially homogeneous. Sad that my friends who are of color can’t fully use that app if they wanted to. Sad that people are left out based upon the color of their skin in an iPhone app. Sad that people really think that kind of thing is over and done. It’s just absurd and sad to me.

I didn’t really know what to do, so I signed this petition. I’m not really into signing petitions but what the heck. Maybe something will happen.

I realize that the emoji app was not created to have a picture of every single thing on this planet. As a friend pointed out, there are also no band aids on there. So, that isn’t the point of this post. I guess the point is just that being left out based on your skin color still goes on. I get so frustrated when people say that doesn’t happen anymore. It was so in my face looking through that app that I couldn’t not say anything. It also makes me so prayerful for the conversations that I know at some point we will have with our son about race and color of skin. Because if it’s happening in something as stupid as an iPhone app, it’s happening in real life, too. I just hope that we can all be aware, sensitive, and pro-active on the things that really matter in life.

Thanks in advance for being gracious with us and giving us this space to navigate and process the things that our family is facing and will continue to face.



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