Dear HR Department,

I am writing to you to inquire about company policy regarding which skin color emoji I am allowed to use on the Slack messaging service as a brown person. For context, before moving to America I was originally born in Pakistan and raised in the southern harbor city of Karachi in Sindh province with ancestral trails threading through northern Balochistan territory in the Quetta region, which probably only meant something to you up to the word “Pakistan.”

While navigating the delicate politics of both the racial sensitivities in the United States and our offices, I would appreciate clarification on the best way to navigate each emoji color option available. I enjoy the other features like the employer-accessible private channels about forming unions and posting of petty comments in #general, but even though I can speak three languages and understand being yelled at in four, I am not as well-versed in emoji etiquette and would appreciate some guidance on this matter.

Currently, the company has six color options.

Originally “Simpsons yellow” was clearly the safest choice. It signified the “everyman” of the emoji. But is this a cop-out? Does the yellow represent the cowardice of Homer (the cartoon, not the poet) and his people? Am I making a statement by trying not to make a statement? And what about Apu and Carl, why were they not yellow?! Where’s their statement?

This is just for white people, right? Like, if your name is Brock and you don’t want to get into trouble with other white people, you pick this? Like, you know what you did and you’re ashamed. But how white is this one? Dying-by-gently-coughing-blood-into-a-handkerchief white or detonating-thirty-gallons-of-gasoline-at-a-baby-gender-reveal-party white? Because those are two different kinds and that doesn’t seem fair.

Is this the same person as above but without shame? They spent the last two weeks in Floribama and came back with a weird rash from the Airbnb hot tub? Or is this like the white person whose Linkedin page just says “DJ / entrepreneur” and is doing a cleanse with alcohol and cocaine?

Okay, so this one’s gotta be for a brown person, right? Does it matter that the lady at Sephora told me that I have an autumn undertone rather than a spring tinge? Is there one of these that represents my eczema? What if I’m somewhere between a “Walnut” and an “Almond” palette? The lady called my shade “#a1665e” Is this that one? Is Ariana Grande allowed to use this one since she said “quinceañera” at the Billboard awards?

Am I supposed to be offended if someone uses this, or am I offending someone else by using it? Can a Black person and a brown person both use this? Like should I be outraged or raging? Or is there a future harmony where we acknowledge not all people, races, ethnicities, or genders are a monolith.

Not this one — I get that.

Thank you again for your help and support in this matter. I’d hate to let the complexity of my complexion put a blemish on my professional prospects.

Zoe Sadozai Malik