When the news hit Monday that Apple’s next update for the iPhone would have 300 new emoji, the most exciting part was that we’d finally get a more diverse selection of skin tones for the human emoji.
However, as pictures of the upcoming characters spread, some people weren’t happy about the new yellow-faced human emoji. To many people, it seemed like the yellow emoji were supposed to represent an Asian skin tone.
As the Daily Mail’s headline puts it: “Asians angered by Apple’s ‘racist’ yellow emoji.“
No need to cast Apple or Unicode, the consortium that makes emoji, as racist though: That yellow emoji isn’t meant to look Asian.
iMore editor Renee Ritchie explains:
(The yellow emoji aren’t meant to represent a skin tone. They’re default emoji yellow. Tap to hold to get one of the five skin tone choices)
— Rene Ritchie (@reneritchie) February 23, 2015
Now that the human emoji will have different possible skin tones, you’ll be able to choose which one you want by touching and holding each emoji and selecting from the different options. The yellow colour is just the neutral default — the same colour as the race-less smiley-face emoji — and doesn’t represent a skin colour.
“Bright yellow as the default made no sense if it was meant to represent a skin tone,” Ritchie wrote in an email. “No single skin tone would make sense if diversity was the goal.”
Indeed, in the Unicode report where it discussed creating more diverse emoji, it said that it would base skin tones off of the “Fitzpatrick scale,” a recognised standard for dermatology.
The yellow colour that Unicode uses for the smiley-face emoji — and that will become the new default colour for the human emoji — isn’t on the Fitzpatrick scale. It’s a “more generic (inhuman) appearance.”
Here’s a look at the default yellow colour compared to the five Fitzpatrick scale colours the new emoji will use: