When you first hear "emojis can be racist," it might sound like the kind of reductive hyperbole of progressive discourse that you'd find on Hannity as he tries to make a big deal out of a single stupid tweet that some intern dug up in order to further prove that the Culture War is real.
But when you actually break it down — as seen in this presentation by Sara Mei Ling Goldstein and Megan E. Glavin — emojis can reveal some surprisingly complex levels about "default whiteness" and the ways that we pretend that certain things are "colorblind."
This is something I've noticed myself in the past, but was never able to articulate as well as this 10-page presentation does. For example: you're on Slack, and a Black colleague uses a Black thumbs-up emoji to react to someone's comment. Is it weird as a white person to also tap that Black thumbs-up, to show your support and solidarity? If you're a white person, is it better to use the Simpsons-neutral-but-actually-white yellow thumbs-up? If you use a lighter-skinned emoji, it might look like a white power move. So what do you do?
The answers aren't easy. But, as this presentation shows, they're worth considering.
If emojis can be flirty, they can also be racist: a guide to understanding the "unbearable whiteness" of emoji [Sara Mei Ling Goldstein and Megan E. Glavin]