NPR runs insane article about skin tone of emojis and 'white privilege'

"One friend who is white told me that it was because he felt that white people were overrepresented in the space that he was using the emoji, so he wanted to kind of try and even the playing field."

Nick Monroe Cleveland Ohio

The folks at the publicly-funded National Public Radio (NPR) outlet recently put out a piece that attacks the usage of the standard yellow-skinned emoji as being potentially symbolic of racism and white privilege. This has led to a reignited debate by some on the relevancy of the dilemma, in the social media commentary space.

In 2015, the Unicode Consortium added five skin color options that go from white, to progressively more tan and ending with a black skin color.

NPR’s headline asserts that the general public "should" be considerate about what color of skin emoji you use for things like a thumbs up.

The article, compiled together by a team of three people, was first posted by the outlet on Wednesday morning.

As a main crux for the piece NPR cites a University of Edinburgh study from 2018 that found white people use white-skinned emojis less often than "dark-skinned" users, based on a collective analysis of tens of thousands of tweets. Additional consideration was made for geographic origins as well as debunking any notion of "digital blackface."

The rest of the NPR piece piggybacks off Zara Rahman, who the outlet describes as a researcher and writer living in Berlin. This is where they got the byline used for the article’s main take: that the skin color of emojis is somehow symbolic of people not recognizing their own racial status.

"One friend who is white told me that it was because he felt that white people were overrepresented in the space that he was using the emoji, so he wanted to kind of try and even the playing field. For me, it does signal a kind of a lack of awareness of your white privilege in many ways."

In writing for the Daily Dot in 2018 she espoused similar views. Rahman hailed the inclusion of new emoji skin colors as an achievement of progress for their diversity. But even so, they felt the need to single out white people. Her logic in calling the yellow emojis "white," is by claiming that there’s only primarily yellow, black, and brown people in "The Simpsons" cartoon.

But Rahman also highlighted the initial 2016 piece by Andrew McGill for The Atlantic that posited that white might be the lowest skin color used for emojis on the basis of being afraid of showing "white pride" on social media.

To bring it back to the main premise: the claim by Rahman and NPR is that white people can ignore racism, but people of color don’t get that luxury.

The tweet from NPR that’s sharing the article has 157 retweets, 549 likes, but a whopping 2731 quote retweets.

Several reactions from people focused on the fact that NPR is publicly funded and this is what they do with their time.

"Glad to know our tax money continues to be put to work on vital stories."

"Your tax dollars at work."

"How much federal, state and local money does #NPR get?"

Others questioned the relevancy of NPR’s story more directly.

"Is it possible some academics have too much time on their hands"

"Pivotal reporting from National Public Radio."

"i would give this two thumbs up but I don't know which skin tones to use"

"What is the point of NPR anymore? It's "national," if by "national" you mean East and West Coast liberal arts colleges."

The Unicode Consortium recently introduced the pregnant man emoji onto an iOS system beta, and there was a lot of debate about the purpose of gender brought into consideration alongside that process.

For NPR’s part, they were in social media hot water last month following a disputed story about members of the Supreme Court having to wear masks when hearing arguments.


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