Why Are There No Black Emojis?


You’ve certainly seen them by now, right?

In a text message. Trending on Twitter. Anywhere in Japan.

They’re everywhere. They’re peculiar. They’re Emojis.

These things (Oh, and what do I mean by these things? These things.) have the power to communicate in disturbingly simple and exclusively 21st century ways. Heck, you can choose 21st century AD or BC, because, in fact, Emojis are glorified digital cave paintings. You can express emotions without emotions, narrate a story without words, or high-five a friend without hands. Emojis do it all.

Except for one thing: blackness:

There are zero black Emojis to be found, you guys. This is deeply troubling and probably racist. My god, why aren’t there any black Emojis?

The easy answer is that these things are thought up and created in Japan, where, I assume, few black folks live. This explanation on its surface makes sense. Diversity and racial awareness aren’t at the top of Tokyo’s travel brochures. However, when you dig into the Emoji archives you find some peculiarities that defy logic and debunk the "Made in Japan" cop-out.

Let's start with the camels. There are two of them. That’s right, TWO CAMELS. Now, I’m no camel scientist — trust me, I tried, but when I entered my first camel research lab I started belting out "my humps, my humps, myhumpsmyhumpsmyhumps," and science kicked me out — but the two Emoji camels look so strikingly similar that I’m pretty sure we could just work out all of our camel Emoji comms with just one camel.

That’s two camels. No blackness.

Before I continue, a serious interruption: I’m a white male, and I realize this feeble attempt at race-based comedy may come across as insensitive, pejorative, or some other negative -ive. Perhaps this is so; however, honest racial understanding can only be found when we collectively push past soft etiquette and political correctness, and lean, no, dive into discomfort and awkward authenticity.

Cool? Cool.

Moving right along, there’s even an invisible Emoji woman wearing a polka-dot bikini, which coincidentally looks like a maniacal, smiling, and chicken pox-ridden Joker face from Batman. Could she be black? Maybe. How can we know? We can’t because she’s invisible.

That’s one invisikini. Probably no blackness.

Finally, and most egregiously, there’s a white fist offering a dap (or a pound or a fist bump, for you white folks). I repeat, there is a white fist offering a dap. Come on, Emoji. We all know that the dap did not originate with nor was perfected by white people. Cool black kids from urban America invented it, and after years of flawless usage, white suburbanites finally caught on and made it flimsy and mainstream.

I can’t emphasize enough how ridiculous that is. I mean, that'd be like a bunch of white people turning the Harlem Shake into a weird, meaningless Internet meme that has nothing to do with the original Harlem Shake and everything to do with everything that is the opposite of the original Harlem Shake (read: ubiquitous and rhythm-less).

That’s one white dap. No blackness.

I could go on, but given the evidence presented — and fret not, there are plenty more examples — the logical to conclusion as to why there are no black emojis can be rudimentarily attributed to culturally embedded prejudices. Not overt racism. Not intentional discrimination. Just plain-old hegemonic unawareness, which we can hopefully overcome by banding together, pointing out such instances, and making fun of them until Barack Obama gets a third term.

Yes, we can.