Social media platforms have great potential to build community, support just causes and call attention to inequity. They can also be used to encourage stereotypes and offend.
Applications like the like the Android photo-altering “Make Me…” series on Google Play are troubling. Once you download the app, you’re able to alter your face instantly. There are about a dozen apps in this series. “Make Me Asian” and “Make Me Indian” are the most offensive. The description says that uploading your pictures to this app will cause you to “laugh heartily” as you “turn yourself and your friends into” Asians, or Indians.
This app suggests that all is needed to become Asian is a rice paddy hat, Dr. Fu Manchu moustache and slanted eyes. And to become Indian, you need only apply war paint, a single-feather headband and a broad nose. It’s ridiculous.
The app by Kimbery Deiss is crude and might be easily dismissed if it weren’t for incredibly disturbing stereotypical features.
Unsuspecting students, likely looking for laughs, may see this app as innocent. It is far from it. Teachers can counter the ill-effects of the app by opening classroom conversations about the harmful nature of stereotypes.
There are no redeeming qualities. No chance to learn about another culture. No room for appreciation of traditions. The only reason for its existence is to poke fun.
The online community is speaking up. People have commented directly on the app site pointing out the offensive nature of the apps. Bloggers have weighed in calling the app racist and offensive.
Already more than 7,600 signatures have been collected through a Change.org petition calling for the removal of the racist app. Peter Chin initiated the petition. Another petition launched by 18 Million Rising, an Asian American civic engagement organization, has garnered nearly 1,700 signatures asking Google Play to remove the app.
In the petition description, Chin says these apps are not funny and “need to come down.” We agree and encourage you to sign the petition. Google administrators need to fine-tune the vetting process. Currently they only require that apps not promote hate speech.
As we poked around Google Play, however, there are other apps that are disturbing, like the many that encourage people to upload their photos and see what they’d look like as a fat person.
Again, not funny. Nothing should encourage people to laugh at a physical attribute or a ridiculous stereotype. Bullying is based on people using a physical attribute against a target. Educators around the country are working hard to combat bullying and create a school climate that embraces and encourages all students for their unique qualities.
We can do better. We must do better. We can start by speaking against The future is depending upon us.
Williamson is associate editor for Teaching Tolerance.