Are you woke? Talking to your kids about race-conscious emojis

Talking to your kids about race-conscious emojisDon Kiebels

Welcome to “Odds & Ends“, where we report on real news that
looks like it could possibly be satire but it’s really, truly, seriously not.

Some people may dream of a world where all social media posts are judged not by the color of their emoji, but by the content of their ¯\_(
)_/¯,  but, as it turns out, trying to pick the right emoji to convey exactly what you’re feeling can be tough.

What can be even tougher is the emoji you choose might be sending the wrong message — someone may interpret the selected emoji in a way that was not intended and is something to consider before hitting send. Also, be sure to avoid “digital blackfacing.”

Kristyn Gelfand, 38, of Toronto, wrote in for advice from NPR’s Ask Code Switch, which deals with race and identity, saying:

My daughter, a very conscious 15-year-old queer, white girl, has recently started using black hand emojis. We discuss race and politics all the time at home. She even listens to your podcast with me sometimes. We live in a diverse neighborhood of a diverse city. As a family and on her own, our daily lives include many friendships and interactions with POC. So my question is, do I speak to her about using the emojis??


If your daughter is like me, she believes an emoji is worth a thousand words. When a friend invites me over for dinner, I like to respond with a (thumbs-up). How else do you efficiently convey: “Yes! What a great idea! I’m excited! (But not too excited)”?

The problem is, the emoji you choose might be sending the wrong message. A text that reads as playful to one person might come off as insensitive to another. (We’ll get into some of the reasons in a sec.)

There are a lot of reasons your daughter might be using black hand emojis. It sounds like she cares about the well-being of the people of color around her, and she is probably not trying to cause offense. So maybe she feels that black hand emojis better convey what she is trying to communicate. Or maybe she thinks using them is a good way to show solidarity with her friends of color.

But there is a problem here. When we step into the digital world, it’s easy to feel like we can leave our IRL identities behind. But the power dynamics that exist in real life don’t disappear just because we’re hidden behind a screen… continue reading.