Apple Vows To Make Emojis More Racially Diverse

Many have asked why there are no black emoji characters. Apple said Tuesday the company is working to update the keyboard to be more multicultural.

1. UPDATED — March 27, 5:50 p.m. ET:

Via Apple iOS 7

The emoji keyboard was first introduced in Japan, but only features two emojis that appear to be Asian: a “man with a turban” and a “man with Gua Pi Mao,” a type of Chinese hat. But the emoji keyboard features more than a dozen faces that look white.

Via Apple iOS7

Emoji characters have been standardized by Unicode Consortium since 2010, so as to appear on all computers and mobile devices the same. Other apps offer emojis, but users risk their friends not being able to see them if they haven’t installed the same software.

Via Apple App Store

6. In response to the lack of diversity, started a petition calling on Apple to increase the ethnic diversity of emojis.

But of the more than 800 Emojis, the only two resembling people of color are a guy who looks vaguely Asian and another in a turban. There’s a white boy, girl, man, woman, elderly man, elderly woman, blonde boy, blonde girl and, we’re pretty sure, [video game character] Princess Peach. But when it comes to faces outside of yellow smileys, there’s a staggering lack of minority representation.

8. This is not the first time people have noted the lack of ethnic emojis, and many have expressed frustration in particular with the fact that there are no black emojis.

9. Miley Cyrus tweeted in 2012 that emojis needed an ethnic update:

RT if you think there needs to be an #emojiethnicityupdate

— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus)

10. And Baby Daddy star Tahj Mowry tweeted about it too:

It makes me mad that there are no black emojis...

— Tahj Mowry (@Tahj_Mowry)

11. In response to continued concern, MTV Act asked Apple CEO Tim Cook directly why there is so little diversity in emojis. On Tuesday, Apple representative Katie Cotton responded that Apple has been working to update the character set.

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.

Despite Apple’s announcement that they are working on an emoji update, there is no release date.

“We’re proud that thousands of our members acted and Apple listened,” said’s spokeswomen Colleen Wormsley to BuzzFeed. “In August, we urged Apple to include more diversity in the emoji keyboard. Emojis are a huge part of youth culture and everyone should feel valuable and represented.”

Via Apple iOS 7

Apple’s last update in 2012 introduced same-sex couples and families into the emoji keyboard as part of iOS 6.

Via Apple iOS7

Campaigns in the past have tried to add hotdogs, cupcakes, tacos, and other edibles to the keyboard, which does include sushi, fried shrimp, and a bento box, because of its Japanese roots.

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Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
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