When a White Person Can Use Brown Emoji Hands

Posted April 6, 2018 4:23 p.m. EDT

Q: I have a friend who started an “ethical and fair trade” clothing line that was just picked up by a big American retailer. The clothes are made in India by local workers and sold in the United States. The production seems fine, but what concerns me is that my friend (who is white) uses brown emoji hands when she markets the clothes on social media. The clothing itself — the cuts and prints — already seems appropriated. But her blatant use of dark-skinned emoji makes me uncomfortable. What should I say? — Anonymous

A: Not a syllable! You have too deeply discounted the value of your friend’s fair-trade enterprise and over-magnified your relatively trifling concerns. Your friend may be offering life-changing wages to people in a poorer region. (With expansion, she could help even more of them.) Better still, ethical supply chains eliminate child labor and other exploitation in fabric making, pattern cutting, sewing, packing and distribution.

Given that all this work transpires in India — that the clothing is indeed made by Indians — her use of brown-skinned emoji hands seems reasonable enough. And if I total up your major complaints: fabrics and designs that seem “appropriated” (from the very region where they are made — huh?) and the dreaded brown-skinned emoji, you seem to be missing the forest for the trees.

It is exquisitely easy to stand on the sidelines and nitpick at the imperfections of worthy projects. (As a jealous person, I am often likely to pile on.) But rather than quibbling with your pal over symbolic concerns, why not congratulate her on the material good she’s doing? If you can’t, better to keep quiet.

One Tough Cookie

Q: At a dinner party at my parents’ house, the new wife of their neighbor bought four boxes of Girl Scout cookies from my daughter. She had two boxes of Thin Mints on hand and wrote an IOU for the other two. The woman paid $20 for all four boxes. Four days later, I received a text from her: “Where are my cookies?” I apologized and said we would bring them as soon as we could. (It’s an hour’s drive.) Three days later, she sent another text: “I want my money back. Send me a check for $20.” I explained that she had already taken two boxes, so I would send her $10. She then sent a photo of the clearly doctored IOU, showing that we owed her four boxes. Thoughts? —David

A: Hang on! I may have gotten $10 of enjoyment out of your story, thereby solving everyone’s problem (except, clearly, those of the neighbor lady — but let’s leave her troubles to a qualified professional). My central concern is that your parents will continue living next to these neighbors long after Thin Mint season has passed. Resolve this quickly (and unfairly) for your parents’ sake. Send the woman a check for $20 and bring down the curtain on possibly the best story about Girl Scout cookies ever told.

This Time, No Invitation to Reject

Q: I am a 36-year-old guy. For 10 years, my mom invited me to Passover Seder. I don’t go; religion isn’t my thing. This year she didn’t invite me. We had a good talk the day before the dinner, so I don’t think she’s upset. I heard from a cousin that the Seder went on as usual. I can’t help feeling insulted. What should I do? —Nathaniel

A: Insulted? If you weren’t 36 (and I didn’t object to corporal punishment), I would recommend a brisk spanking for you, Nathaniel. You haven’t once, apparently, in 10 years, given much thought to your mother’s hurt feelings at your declined Seder invitations. Still, you take offense the one time she forgets to invite you. Let’s acknowledge the sad truth: Your mother, like many, is probably a glutton for filial punishment. You would have been as welcome this year as any.

My suspicion is that the formality of inviting you slipped her mind in the rush of putting together a complex meal for many guests. (It’s not as if you were going to accept the 11th invitation, correct?) But let’s test my hypothesis: Mark your calendar now for next year; make a big show of telling Mom how much you want to attend; then go. Be sure to report back, OK?

Getting Into the Holiday Spirit

Q: I am so mad I could spit! At an Easter egg hunt, a 6-year-old boy told our 4-year-old daughter that there is no Easter bunny. She was devastated. I think the boy’s parents could (and should) have prevented this. Your thoughts? —Dad

A: I’m sorry for your loss of the Easter bunny. But short of placing your daughter in a sensory deprivation tank, she’s going to hear things on the mean streets. And 6-year-olds aren’t famous for discretion. When your anger eases, let the boy’s parents know what happened, so they can try to prevent its recurrence next year (and at Christmas). But I still think you can salvage this situation for another year or so with your 4-year-old: Ask her where she thinks the candy comes from — then deny, deny, deny.