The Tenors sang ‘All Lives Matter’ in ‘O Canada.’ They were wrong.

One of the better commentaries – Adrian Lee provides one of the clearest expressions of why the critics of ‘Black Lives Matter’ have it wrong:

In place of the lyrics “With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North strong and free,” the group sang instead: “We’re all brothers and sisters/All lives matter to the great,” raising a marker-scrawled sign “All Lives Matter,” before returning to the standard lyrics in French. (A note of pity here for Michael Saunders, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Canadian-born outfielder, who stared blankly into the sun as the camera panned to him during this moment.)

Let’s leave aside what they could have meant by “to the great,” and take a moment to explain why the statement “All Lives Matter” alone here is thoughtless, at best. As a dismissal, or even a response to the statement “Black Lives Matter”—a movement and rallying cry for black communities in America, Canada and beyond who have witnessed, experienced and felt acts of discrimination (both overt and subtle) and are refusing to accept societal norms that have produced police brutality and other acts of violence—it is unworthy. It is a statement that salves the oppressor; it is a sentence that erases the pain by equating that pain to those experienced by everyone. It is, as the popular argument goes, the equivalent of telling a neighbour whose house is on fire that all houses matter. It is, as my colleague Jason Markusoff noted on Twitter, the rhetorical equivalent of interrupting those solemnly pausing on Remembrance Day to say “Never forget” with a haughty “No, it should be ‘Never forget all genocides’.” Never mind that taking vitriolic offence to the brusque response one often receives to “all lives matter” takes away from the actual issues at hand. “All Lives Matter” is, at best, unhelpful because it refuses to acknowledge that people are different, and some people are hurting right now.

Some may point to U.S. President Barack Obama’s more diplomatic note at the recent NATO summit in Warsaw: “When people say ‘black lives matter,’ that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter. That just means all lives matter.” This, it’s worth noting, is a different point than merely saying “All Lives Matter.” That’s because saying “Black Lives Matter” does not mean “only black lives matter”; that’s a flawed premise too, and it’s a defensive reading that refuses to acknowledge that those lives actually do. The conceit of “Black Lives Matter” is about focus, and not about exclusion; the reality that most of North American society has focused expressly on lives that are not black makes this urgent, and makes “All Lives Matter” particularly cruel.

Source: The Tenors sang ‘All Lives Matter’ in ‘O Canada.’ They were wrong.

Racially diverse emojis miss the point –

Some interesting articles on the issue of racially diverse emojis, starting with Adrian Lee taking the position that these undermine the universality and ambiguity of the current set:

The problem is, the idea and execution of racially representative emojis completely misses the point.

For starters, emojis never really had a race problem. The invention of Shigetaka Kurita, emoji have an Asian root that has in many ways been whitewashed over, with many of the original ones depicting Japanese-centric images such as a bowing businessman; it is why many of the food items in Unicode’s emojis are Japanese, from ramen to tempura shrimp. According to the Wall Street Journal, “initially supposed to depict characters with inhuman, cartoon-like complexions—for example, a yellow or orange colour.”

So the standard baseline in emojis was never really white—that’s a later interpretation that society has applied. If anything, the race problem is with Unicode, the consortium that codes symbols and images so they can be displayed across the world’s many platforms and devices, which took Kurita’s initial offering, sidelined many of the Japan-centric ones, and produced a selection of 722. (Personal research finds that Apple devices currently feature 845 emojis.)

And the reality of racial representation is that it will, invariably, leave someone out and leave someone unhappy. It has already begun; social media has noted there is no one with freckles and red hair among the six new colour options for each emoji. The backlash has started, too, as some have been furious over the bright yellow of what they are seeing as the “East Asian” skin colour—ironic, since they’re actually referring to the aforementioned “cartoon-like” emoji complexion, as Asians are not technically depicted at all, given the fact the new emojis reportedly hew to the Fitzpatrick scale, a “dermatological standard” for judging race. (The Fitzpatrick scale did not adequately measure non-white skin colour for years after its 1975 creation, dumping all non-white skin into one category.) There’s perhaps nothing more problematic than Chinese people seeing themselves as the cartoonish, bright yellow initially designed to mean literally nothing. But anyway.

… Unlike most languages, less precision serves emoji better. Emojis’ generality is exactly why it’s taken off as a universal language, not necessarily the efforts of some secretive coding consortium. Emoji are our modern-day shibboleths—they’re defined not by colour, but by context.

And while it’s hardly wrong to get our hackles up over race, it seems odd that the hill we are choosing to defend is the one where the baseline was an intentionally preposterous complexion for a fun thing whose use is derived by its ambiguity. So let’s not let racial politics needlessly creep into our woman doing the salsa: May your fist emoji mean fist-bump or solidarity or I’m-punching-you, no matter what shade it is.

Racially diverse emojis miss the point –

And the science or classification scheme behind the selection of skin tones that was used in creating these emojis:

So how did Unicode, the consortium that sets the standard for emojis, settle on particular colors for their icons? Vocativ’s Sarah Kaufman explains that the tones are based on a scale created in 1975 by Harvard dermatologist Thomas Fitzpatrick, “the father of academic dermatology,” to assess how different people’s skins reacted to varying degrees of UV rays.

Kaufman helps break down the skin categories:

  • Type I (scores 0 to 6): Pale white; blond or red hair; blue eyes; freckles — Always burns, never tans

  • Type II (scores 7 to 13): White; fair; blond or red hair; blue, green or hazel eyes — Usually burns, tans minimally

  • Type III (scores 14 to 20): Cream white; fair with any hair or eye color; quite common — Sometimes mild burn, tans uniformly

  • Type IV (scores 21 to 27): Moderate brown; typical Mediterranean skin tone — Rarely burns, always tans well

  • Type V (scores 28 to 34): Dark brown; Middle Eastern skin types — Very rarely burns, tans very easily

  • Type VI (scores 35+): Deeply pigmented dark brown to black — Never burns, tans very easily

Here’s Where Emoji Skin-Tone Colors Come From