On Thursday, Google pulled a pair of apps from its online Google Play store in response to an uproar alleging that the programs were racist. The apps, called "Make Me Asian" and "Make Me Indian," allowed users to superimpose "outdated racist iconography" such as Fu Manchu mustaches and straw hats, or feathers and war paint, onto photos of themselves. It was, according to the original sales pitch, "just a fun app that lets you indulge you and your friends!" Of course, plenty of people didn't think this was a fun indulgence at all, and they took to social media to fume.
Using the hashtag #makemeracist, activists launched a Twitter campaign targeting the apps, and a Change.org petition garnered more than 8,000 signatures. "Blackface (dressing up as a caricature of a black person, complete with black makeup) is thankfully and rightfully recognized as thoroughly racist, so why in the world is 'yellowface' and 'redface' given a pass?" asks Peter Chin, a Washington pastor who launched the petition.
Google has reportedly refused to comment on these specific apps, and the app's developer, KimberyDeiss, does not appear to have made any public statements on the controversy.
Asians were not the only ethnic group stereotyped by KimberyDeiss. "Make Me Russian" and "Make Me Irish" versions also exist. How do apps like these even get created and approved? "There is less inherent social and political power associated with these groups, suggests Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Yang This means it's easier to get away with mocking these communities, he says.