by Harris Yun – Staff Writer
Apple recently released the list of new emojis to be added in their next iOS update, iOS 11.1. Included on the list is the return of the vomit emoji, which was removed early last year (to much dismay), and the introduction of what people are already calling the ‘Colbert emoji’, a face with one eyebrow raised in classic Stephen Colbert fashion. Other emoji added include a T. rex, the orange heart, and ‘I love you’ in sign language. Most important, however is the inclusion of three gender-neutral emoji and a woman wearing a hijab.
As America becomes increasingly divided, this is extremely important. Islamophobia is at an all time high, and the transgender question is slowly becoming more and more relevant on the country’s social agenda. With the recent ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, it’s more important than ever that we as a country show our support for those who struggle with their gender identity. Similarly, while attitudes towards muslims are gradually becoming more and more extreme, in some cases even inciting hate crimes, the inclusion of a hijab-wearing woman is an encouraging signal that muslims are slowly becoming more integrated into American society and are being seen as part of America, instead of temporarily-sheltered strangers.
Some people might scoff, asking “what’s the big deal? They are just pictures…” but in reality, this is extremely important. Sure, they might be small symbols that people probably will not ever use, but the fact that they have even been included is a strong signal that America is finally ready to accept these often marginalized groups. They are pushing the idea that muslim and transgender individuals are part of mainstream society, and that they should be included in everything, even something as small as a choice of what emoji you use in a small text message. It is not a big step, but it is a step in the right direction – an America where everybody is treated equally, not just in theory, but in reality.