Racially Diverse Emoji? Apple Is Working On It, Confirms An Exec, But Things Aren't Moving Quickly

We all love emoticons, but it's no secret that Emojis seriously lack racial diversity. Reporter Joey Parker decided to email CEO Tim Cook personally about the issue — and as it turns out, Apple's communications vice president, Katie Cotton, agreed. Cotton explained that the emojis are based on the Unicode standard, and confirmed that Apple is working with the Unicode Consortium to update its characters.

Yay! Well, sort of. Unfortunately, getting the Unicode Consortium to add new characters is a pretty lengthy process, and can take years. Apple did bring up "new emojis" with the Unicode Consortium back in Feb. 2014, according to this public document, but that's about all the solid progress that's happened so far.

As Bustle reported last summer:

There’s one Emoji with a dark, burly moustache (Mexican), one with dark skin and a turban (Indian), and a vaguely Asian-looking Emoji wearing an inexplicable red-and-green hat. The Emoji expressions — happy, sad, angry, panicked, sleepy, shocked, worried, excited — are all Simpsons-yellow, but its spectrum of faces are, with the exceptions of those three, solely white.
This is especially bizarre when you consider that it’s a Japanese application, and aside from ethnic origins, several cultures are well-represented: you have the Edward Munch “Scream” face; the Statue of Liberty; flags from every major country likely to use Emojis; and a multiethnic supply of food images.

In the meantime, DoSomething.org features a petition for more diversity on the emoji keyboard, and has received over 4,000 signatures.

And fortunately, Twitter is making it impossible for executives to forget their promise with the hashtag #EmojiEthnicityUpdate. Miley Cyrus was one of the first to use the hashtag all the way back in 2012, when she called out emojis for being predominantly white.

Recently, Los Angeles-based actor and singer Tahj Mowry agreed.

Soon enough, the hashtag began to pick up, #EmojiEthnicityUpdates started trending on Twitter.

Emojis are already being used to translate Moby Dick — just imagine an entire collection of Emoji books in which characters look exclusively Caucasian. While some people may call the issue "trivial" (particularly in the FastCompany comment section,) it's hard to underestimate the importance of people of color being able to see themselves represented in everyday life.