Apple Makes Racism Worse

Tell me again how WaPo is a right wing media organ?

Washington Post’s coverage of the new “controversy” regarding Apple’s update of available emojis updated the venerable set of default emojis to include people of color, so it is no longer the exclusionary sea of beige and yellow it was before.

Of course, it didn’t take long for it to become a problem, as now racists were able to use ethnic emojis in sharing their racist nonsense online. The correct take on this, is, of course: what did you expect? People are idiots. WaPo’s editorial take, however, is more nuanced:

Apple on Thursday introduced its new racially diverse emoji, allowing users to cycle through various shades of white and brown to customize their emoji’s skin colors.  Some rejoiced, with choruses of “We made it” flanked by newly black praise-hand emoji filling Instagram and Twitter. Some even professed to cry tears of joy over this sign of racial inclusion. But already, Apple’s well-intentioned gesture to human diversity has taken a turn for the worse. The emoji are being used to make racist comments on social media and insert questions of race in texts and tweets where it may never have arisen before. Instead of correcting its mistake — excluding people of color from emoji — Apple has, in some ways, made the situation worse.

Catch that? Apple has made things worse. This is Apple’s fault. Not the nutburgers and trolls using the new emojis in racist way, but Apple, for somehow not preventing it.

In trying to advocate for racial inclusivity in its iOS 8.3 update, Apple has allowed for further racial segregation with these new emoji. Because I’m black, should I now feel compelled to use the “appropriate” brown-skinned nail-painting emoji? Why would I use the white one? Now in simple text messages and tweets, I have to identify myself racially.

See what Apple has done! It’s forcing minorities to identify themselves racially in text messages. Apple did this. Not all the people who have been complaining it was racist that there weren’t ethnically-correct emojis. Apple.

The author goes on to suggest that Apple should have made the emojis even more ethnically identifiable, somehow, not just white emojis with a paint job. Yet I can think of no way to add additional ethnic identifiers to emojis and have that go over better. And it would certainly be used be racists to, you know, be racist.

… there’s nothing specifically “black” about an emoji with browner skin. Deepening the skin color of a previously white emoji doesn’t make the emoji not white. It’s just a bastardized emoji blackface. The blond-haired emoji man and the blue-eyed emoji princess are clearly white, but you can slip them into a darker-colored skin. These new figures aren’t emoji of color; they’re just white emoji wearing masks.

And, finally, the author blames Apple for the Political Correctness run amok:

 The company should’ve never made race a question, making the emojis raceless with yellow faces and leaving it at that.

Because Apple made it an issue. Cuz, you know. Capitalism. Or something.

36 Responses

  1. Frist!

    That’s a lot easier when it’s my post.

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  2. Some people live to get offended by shit like this. It is sad that Apple gets dragged into it.

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    • Brent:

      It is sad that Apple gets dragged into it.

      After Tim Cook’s demagoguery over Indiana’s RFRA, I think it is a bit of cosmic justice.

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      • KW:

        And, finally, the author blames Apple for the Political Correctness run amok:

        Well, you can either embrace the PC lunacy of the day or you can reject it. I’d have more sympathy for Apple had it rejected it in the first place and then come under attack. In choosing to pander to the “diversity” crowd, I think Apple has made its own bed.

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  3. That’s a lot easier when it’s my post.

    If I’d known you were going to post I’d have gotten you!

    Having said that, I agree with you. I saw that WaPo piece and banged my head on my desk a couple of times. It’s kind of like blaming IKEA for making nice white sheets so that the Klan can use them for costumes.

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    • Mich/Mark:

      It’s kind of like blaming IKEA for making nice white sheets so that the Klan can use them for costumes.

      The author’s criticism of Apple isn’t that it facilitates racist acts. The fact that it does was just a single sentence aside in the whole piece. The criticism was that it introduces a racial element where none is necessary, and therefore compels people to make racial considerations when they otherwise would not. The author explicitly says:

      Apple’s mistake was in ever introducing the concept of race to emoji in the first place. Now, if I use two smiley faces to represent me and a white friend, I have to contemplate what color emoji to use…The company should’ve never made race a question, making the emojis raceless with yellow faces and leaving it at that.

      I actually agree entirely with that sentiment.

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  4. Excellent post.

    Thanks. I like ‘Goose’s analogy – IKEA and KKK, indeed.

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  5. @ScottC1: “After Tim Cook’s demagoguery over Indiana’s RFRA, I think it is a bit of cosmic justice.”

    While there is a bit of the cosmic justice, what amazes me is that Apple, in this as (to some degree) Tim Cook’s condemnation of the Indiana RFRA is that it’s reflecting the overall culture, and in the case of the emojis, capitulating to it. Emoji support was originally provided by an independent developer; people complained Apple didn’t have it, and so Apple bought said developer and incorporated into the phone, because that’s what “the people demanded”. People complained about the caucasian-centricity of the emojis, so Apple added more racial customization. This is also not remotely novel: such tools are and have been available for constructing avatars in video games, and on X-Box and Wii and I think maybe Playstation for a while. They just aren’t emojis that you select to stick into a text.

    “The author’s criticism of Apple isn’t that it facilitates racist acts.”

    Actually, that is one of the criticisms. As if the idea of being able to refer to anything racially thus makes racism possible. While not delighted with the ethnic emojis, I have a problem with the implicit idea that specifying a skin color enables racism. It continues to advance the notion that noticing any ethnic identifier is creating/enabling racism, or is in and of itself racist.

    “Apple’s mistake was in ever introducing the concept of race to emoji in the first place. Now, if I use two smiley faces to represent me and a white friend, I have to contemplate what color emoji to use…The company should’ve never made race a question, making the emojis raceless with yellow faces and leaving it at that.

    I actually agree entirely with that sentiment.”

    I don’t. I agree that the company should have left the emojis neutral (although this was impossible, given the set they purchased; they would have had to have eliminated caucasian characters and the stereotypical ones that already existed, and that might have been an issue for some, as well–whitewashing [or yellow-washing] instead of making some effort to be inclusive). More to the point, as when there were caucasian emojis (and, really, should we expect everybody to be so racially sensitive that, when design a “Santa Claus” emoji, that they make Santa Claus yellow to avoid racial insensitivity?) they existed for non-racial reasons. A Santa Claus, a Grampa, a Princess. They should have been left out, I suppose, but that feels a little more like hindsight than something that would have been obvious from the beginning.

    But the thing I disagree with most is that Apple is forcing the author to contemplate what color emoji to use. That’s the author’s choice. The same yellow emojis are still available. The author can just choose to use the smiley face emojis. Or, failing that, a colon and a parentheses. Or abjure the use of emojis entirely.

    But, back to my main point: this isn’t a corporate plot to enable racism, it’s Apple’s design department responding to criticism of other groups of racially oversensitive people wanting to play out their identity politics in the high-stakes world of politicized text message emojis and Twitter comments. Perhaps they shouldn’t have (I don’t think they should have) and for this very reason: there is no making people happy in the arena of identity politics.

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  6. @Michigoose: “It’s kind of like blaming IKEA for making nice white sheets so that the Klan can use them for costumes.”

    And given that IKEA is a Scandinavian company (and whose more aryan than those folks) it’s hard not to see the racist motivations in their decision to sell white bed linens.

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  7. “The emoji are being used to make racist comments on social media and insert questions of race in texts and tweets where it may never have arisen before. Instead of correcting its mistake — excluding people of color from emoji — Apple has, in some ways, made the situation worse.”

    The only way I can read that, btw, is the author criticizing Apple for facilitating text-message and Twitter-comment racism.

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    • KW:

      The only way I can read that, btw, is the author criticizing Apple for facilitating text-message and Twitter-comment racism.

      I read it as a factual observation. Apple makes a “well-intentioned gesture” which then gets used for ill-intentioned purposes. That is happening, isn’t it?

      I don’t [agree with that sentiment]. I agree that the company should have left the emojis neutral

      The sentiment I was agreeing with was that it should have left the emojis race-neutral.

      But, back to my main point: this isn’t a corporate plot to enable racism,

      I didn’t read the author as suggesting such a plot existed. In fact, I thought he pretty clearly viewed what he sees as the negative results of Apple’s decision to be the unintended side-effects of a “well-intentioned” effort, not a plot to promote those side-effects.

      Perhaps they shouldn’t have (I don’t think they should have)

      I agree. I thought that was what the author was saying, too.

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  8. Also: “Now in simple text messages and tweets, I have to identify myself racially.”

    No, you don’t. Say “I’m getting my nails painted! Wheee!” and post a picture of your painted nails. Skip the emojis entirely. Anything beyond a wink and a smile is overkill, anyway. 😉

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    • BTW, KW, I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment as well:

      Skip the emojis entirely. Anything beyond a wink and a smile is overkill, anyway.

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  9. “I agree. I thought that was what the author was saying, too.”

    Perhaps, but that’s not how it comes across to me at all. It reads to me like the author blaming a company for the behavior of individuals . . . in addition to suggesting that the company should have restricted choice so that the author and others would not have too many and too confusing options (based on what the author may feel is ill used). Which may be fine with emojis, but other things, not so much. And the author repeatedly suggests that Apple’s inclusion of these things somehow now obligates them to “consider race in the use of emojis” when the old options, including the one of not using them at all, remain.

    If that’s what the author was saying, I think they might should have tackled the topic a little different. But . . . to each their own! 👳

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    • KW:

      And the author repeatedly suggests that Apple’s inclusion of these things somehow now obligates them to “consider race in the use of emojis” when the old options, including the one of not using them at all, remain.

      I confess that I don’t actually know how these emojis work. Do you have to do something special in order to see the new racial ones, or do they just pop up alongside the non-racial ones, and you have to choose which color to use? If I click on the standard yellow smiley face and I am then asked to choose which race I want, then I think the author is right…racial considerations are being infused into a process where they didn’t used to exist. And I can see how that would be pretty irritating to some users.

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  10. Most everyone works (i mean, well, you know)
    and some have jobs whose sole function to to be offended at nonsense on behalf a a group. and therefore racists emoticons.

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  11. I haven’t actually investigated that. I usually only messing with emojis when playing around, texting my youngest daughter, who likes to search through emojis and find them. The one’s in my version of OSX (Mavericks) does not and will not get the racialy sensitive versions. But I think you pick and emoji and then somehow adjust the skin tone of the emoji. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t apply to the old Yellow ones, just the various previously caucasian ones (that, at this point, have been around for years). So you aren’t forced just to use the white princess.

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  12. So, you can see smileys where the interface doesn’t automatically convert them to graphics if you install an emoji font, but, boy, ultimately, who cares. Emojis are a play thing. You find weird ones to send somebody but most of the time, I don’t care, and don’t use them. The young folks are crazy with the emojis.

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  13. For God’s sake, no. Stand athwart history and yell “Stop!”

    *winespit*

    Which reminds me–it’s getting warmer. It may be time to pick up some Hendrick’s for some G&Ts. ❤ 🙂 ❤

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  14. “But, back to my main point: this isn’t a corporate plot to enable racism,

    I didn’t read the author as suggesting such a plot existed. In fact, I thought he pretty clearly viewed what he sees as the negative results of Apple’s decision to be the unintended side-effects of a “well-intentioned” effort, not a plot to promote those side-effects.”

    As an FYI, the author is a she.

    “Paige Tutt is a writer who covers race, sexuality, and pop culture. She lives in Ridgewood, Queens”

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  15. Regardless of the merits of the underlying murder charges, this is absurd:

    “Attorneys for Slough, Liberty and Heard criticized prosecutors’ decision to charge them with using military firearms while committing a felony, an offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison, twice as long as a manslaughter conviction.

    The charge has primarily been aimed at gang members, rarely against police officers accused of misconduct and never before against security contractors given military weapons by the U.S. government.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/four-blackwater-guards-sentenced-in-iraq-shootings-of-31-unarmed-civilians/2015/04/13/55b777e0-dee4-11e4-be40-566e2653afe5_story.html?hpid=z1

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    • Curious about your take on this:

      http://tinyurl.com/kt934jq

      I already know ‘Goose’s.

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    • Enhanced penalties for a variety of mind states or circumstances are standard prosecutorial tools and have been since they invented Anglo criminal law. Quite possibly this enhancement statute was not aimed at persons who were issued milweapons by the US DoD. Or maybe the statute was meant as a deterrent to authorized users of military weapons shooting up non-combatants. Who knows? Either way, why should a prosecutor pull his punches? If there is a defense argument to be made, why not let the trial court decide on a Motion to Strike [or set aside] the Count, or an appellate court decide after giving an appellate court jurisdiction on the appeal of conviction, if the trial court was unimpressed by the Motion to Strike?

      To be clear, were I the prosecutor I would have resisted the temptation to pile on. I think.

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      • Mark:

        Enhanced penalties for a variety of mind states or circumstances are standard prosecutorial tools and have been since they invented Anglo criminal law.

        Sure, but has it been standard to apply them to circumstances not controlled or chosen by the defendant?

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        • Sure, but has it been standard to apply them to circumstances not controlled or chosen by the defendant?

          I don’t understand your question in context.

          If you drive a getaway car, the felony-felony rule of enhancement applies. If the bank robber who hired you merely to drive killed someone, you are charged with murder. Wouldn’t matter if you conditioned your drive on no personal violence. Is this an example that satisfies your question?

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        • You hear scurrying on the front porch. You grab your shotgun. Shadows are racing to break into your tool shed or garage. You fire. One goes down. One runs off. The one you killed was a cop in pursuit. You are charged with capital murder of a policeman in the line of duty.

          You may have good defenses to all or part of the charge, but the prosecutor is well within the penal statute charging you with the top offense. If you convince the jury that you fired to scare the burglars off your property the whole thing might end up with a mere conviction for unlawfully discharging a firearm within the limits of a city of more than 5000, or some such.

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        • Mark:

          I don’t understand your question in context.

          It’s not as if they chose to use military style weapons instead of using other weapons. They were given and instructed to use the military weapons by the very same government that is now charging them. I am with jnc…it is Kafkaesque.

          Convicting them on that count might be Kafkaesque. Charging them is nothing but a prosecutor having the most bargaining chips he can put into play.

          I think it should be considered unethical for a prosecutor to charge a defendant with something that the prosecutor doesn’t think they ought to be convicted of just to bully them into submission on a lesser charge. It is one thing to negotiate from a charge that the prosecutor thinks is actually deserved down to something lesser in order to guarantee a conviction. It is something else, and more sinister, to load up on all kinds of ridiculous and trumped up charges in order overwhelm and bully the defendant into an agreement.

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        • It is something else, and more sinister, to load up on all kinds of ridiculous and trumped up charges in order overwhelm and bully the defendant into an agreement.

          All defense attorneys and the ACLU completely agree with you. It just happens that prosecutors generally don’t give a shit. Overwhelming and bullying the defendant is the way it is done, every day, everywhere, all the time. 90%+ guilty pleas in every courtroom in America. Really.

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        • Mark:

          Overwhelming and bullying the defendant is the way it is done, every day, everywhere, all the time. 90%+ guilty pleas in every courtroom in America. Really.

          Oh, I don’t doubt you at all. But as with so much else we’ve talked about here, I find myself thinking that the way it is done is wrong, and I don’t find “the way it is done” to be a compelling argument about the way it should be.

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  16. Charging someone in a war zone for using excessive force up to and including murder is one thing. Charging them for using the weapons issued to them by the government while carrying out their official duties is Kafkaesque.

    What I take away from this is that the government is never to be trusted. I wouldn’t volunteer to go to a war zone at all based on this, even if I never could imagine actually taking the actions that they did.

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    • Convicting them on that count might be Kafkaesque. Charging them is nothing but a prosecutor having the most bargaining chips he can put into play.

      Like

  17. “markinaustin, on April 14, 2015 at 10:34 am said:

    Convicting them on that count might be Kafkaesque.”

    Which they did, and that’s how they got the long sentences.

    Like

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