Since the tech companies are behind emoji, theyโ€™ve been at the forefront of woke. They added different skin colors. They added families with same-sex parents. They added a pregnant man. But if youโ€™re one of those white people who uses the default yellow thumbs-up sign, academics say you might be signaling a lack of awareness about white privilege.

Choosing a skin tone โ€œcan open a complex conversation about race and identity.โ€ NPR reports:

Alexander Robertson, an emoji researcher at Google and Ph.D. candidate involved in the study, said the emoji modifiers were used widely but it was people with darker skin who used them in higher proportions, and more often.

Instead, some white people may stick with the yellow emoji because they donโ€™t want to assert their privilege by adding a light-skinned emoji to a text, or to take advantage of something that was created to represent diversity.


[Researcher Zara Rahman] said there was a default in society to associate whiteness with being raceless, and the emojis gave white people an option to make their race explicit.

โ€œI completely hear some people are just exhausted [from] having to do that. Many people of color have to do that every day and are confronted with race every day,โ€ Rahman said. โ€œBut for many white people, theyโ€™ve been able to ignore it, whether thatโ€™s subconsciously or consciously, their whole lives.โ€

A Ph.D. candidate in emoji research.

Government-funded clickbait.


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