The folks I talked to before writing this story said it felt awkward to use an affirmatively white emoji; at a time when skin-tone modifiers are used to assert racial identity, proclaiming whiteness felt uncomfortably close to displaying “white pride,” with all the baggage of intolerance that carries. At the same time, they said, it feels like co-opting something that doesn’t exactly belong to white people—weren’t skin-tone modifiers designed so people of color would be represented online?
Last year, the hosts of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, debated whether white people can use darker skin tones when sending emoji, or if that amounts to cultural appropriation.
It was at this point that the troubling nature of the situation became more clear. It is not simply that it is problematic for whites to use the white emoji, but so too is it racist for them to use the brown shades and the yellow default. In sum, it is racist for whites to use any emoji.
There are two choices going forward: either white users should refrain from using emoji, or an alternative default must be drawn. Perhaps green, blue or purple would be an ideal choice as they don’t have racial connotations.
In effetti non ho mai considerato l’uso di un emoji che non fosse gialla. Come conseguenza — e anche per via del fatto che il giallo è stato adottato da serie TV come i Simpson — il colore di default del sistema finisce con il venire associato a sua volta ai bianchi — quasi a voler sottointendere che non hanno un colore.
Come sottolinea Eli, sarebbe stato possibile evitare questo problema optando per delle emoji blu o verdi come default. Scrive sempre il The Atlantic:
This seems to be the crux of the matter. White people don’t have to use racemoji or risk denying their identity; the default works fine. Perhaps the squeamishness on the part of whites has more to do with the acknowledgement that only white people hold this special privilege; to use the white emoji is to express a solidarity with people of color that does not exist.
So it becomes a self-reinforcing cycle. When white people opt out of racemoji in favor of the “default” yellow, those symbols become even more closely associated with whiteness—and the notion that white is the only raceless color.