In the next update of Apple's OS and iOS, there will be new sets of emoji in six different skin tones, in order to reflect the racial diversity of the planet, and iPhone users. There's one big problem though: The ones assumed to be Asian are bright yellow, like Simpsons yellow, and bloggers in China are already noting that this is kind of offensive!
As you can see above, there's been an effort to show a range of skin tones, but this is not the easiest thing to do in cartoons. And no one on earth is actually yellow-skinned, unless they have jaundice, though historically, and more recently offensively, Asians have been referred to as "yellow"-skinned.
As CBS 5 reports, the emoji are still just in the developers' version of the software update, and an Apple spokesperson (perhaps carefully?) has said that the company is "working with the Unicode Consortium" to "update the standard so that it better represents diversity for all of us."
But as Quartz reports, the cries of "yellowface" began on Twitter and the Chinese microblog Weibo as soon as images of the emoji appeared on Monday. As one person succinctly put it, "Are yellow people really that yellow?"
As CNN tells us, the process of adding the emoji to the globally used Unicode Consortium is a complicated one, because they have to work across all platforms. And emoji, which originated in Japan in the wake of smartphone technology, were added to the Unicode Standard in 2010 and then natively to Apple's iOS in 2011.
Add bonus: Six different color Santas! (Including yellow.)
There may be some misunderstanding at work, however Rene Ritchie tweets that the yellow emoji are supposed to be the default for each emoji type, and you tap to hold to choose from the five other skin tone options. Still... confusing.
(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
Expect the backlash to continue, unless of course things change after beta. Some more reactions, below.
Asian skin tone in the new Apple emoji set is bright yellow. That seems more racist than racially diverse.— kray kray (@krazyfrog) February 24, 2015
Apple rolling out new racially diverse emoji! Not sure how I'm feeling about these ultra-yellow Asian emoji tho http://t.co/VhOsyoXG0p— Yurie Kwon (@_yuriekwon) February 23, 2015