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What Emoji Am I Supposed To Use?

Skin-toned emojis: Empowering diversity ? OR Reinforcing racial classification?

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Out of the 1,851 different emoji characters available, particularly the emojis that stood out to me the most were the different skin-toned variances from the default emojis (e.g. 👩👩🏻👩🏼👩🏽👩🏾👩🏿). Now these default emojis are not differed except, they have become available with different skin-tones and most of us have probably come across these emojis. The move in 'emoji diversity' derived shortly after Unicode Consortium; a non-profit corporation, that governs emojis and brought up the issue that it lacked diversity. Last year, with the iOS 8.3 updates, Apple introduced these diverse set of emojis to address it's lack of diversity. Unicode Consortium's tech report :

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 (nonhuman) appearance, such as a yellow/orange color or a silhouette.

Five symbol modifier characters that provide for a range of skin tones for human emoji were released in Unicode Version 8.0 (mid-2015). These characters are based on the six tones of the Fitzpatrick scale, a recognized standard for dermatology
(Unicode, 2016)
Hulu / Via giphy.com

So what the Unicode is saying is that the emojis that have skin-tone modifiers are based on the Fitzpatrick scale (a dermatological scale that classifies human skin color.) This being said, it can be argued that the difference skin-toned emojis are not based on race or ethnicity.

Reddit / Via giphy.com

Honestly, it's pretty hard to disassociate race with these types of emojis. The term "dermatology" derives from the Latin derma which is defined as "skin beneath the epidermis" (Harper, 2016). The constructions of these emojis are bound with biological concepts. Consequences arise when we associate these signs.

Stuart Hall, a well-known sociologist, believes that "race is a discursive construct ... where it is linked to other signifiers in a representation and its meaning is relational" (Hall, 1996). In another aspect seen with the division in color, racial identity and stratification are reinforced. The color of one's skin is a signifier as race is a social construct. The idealogies of race and racial identity is fluid. However, racial classification remains constant because it is constantly reinforced in our daily lives. Classification maintains order and superiority; it is used as a way to justify racism and unqeual treatment. Although these emojis are based on the Fitzpatrick scale, they were not intentionally created to represent different groups of race but rather empower diversity. However, it is hard not to question whether the representation of the colors in the Fitzpatrick scale reiterates the sign-system of racial differentiations.

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