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MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow Questions Lack of Racial Diversity in Emoji Characters

• July 30, 2014 3:31 pm

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MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow tackled a pressing issue- the lack of racial diversity in emoji (miniature pictures sent in text messages on iPhones) on his show Tuesday afternoon.

Farrow expressed his love of emojis and shared "One of my personal favorites was this … rendering of "The Shining" in emoji." He then proceeded to share the rendering with viewers and describe it. "There it is- the family goes in a car, they go to the hotel, there’s a black guy ice cream kid with "The Shining," he said.

He used the description to segue into the burning topic of his news hour—the lack of racial diversity found among emojis. "That’s actually a great way to get into the question of race," Farrow said. "They used the dark moon symbol for Halloran—the black character in "The Shining," he astutely observed, before asking one of the panelists, "John, do you think there’s a limitation we’re suffering from in terms of the racial diversity of these emojis?"

Linguist John McWhorter didn’t seem to agree with Farrow’s train of thought. "No, actually what I think we’re going to see more is a gender skew. Apparently women are more likely to use them and more richly … I think the verdict is out at this point," McWhorter answered.

Farrow was not pleased with McWhorter’s response, apparently. "It is not just a black/white issue," he contested. "Do we have an image of what you have to go with if you want to render, for instance, someone who is Arab or Middle Eastern?" he asked. An emoji of a dark skinned male wearing a turban appeared on the screen. "It’s not a particularly nuanced portrayal," he told the panelists.

Published under: MSNBC, Ronan Farrow