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National Geographic's Racist Coverage Officially Acknowledged

In the National Geographic upcoming 2018 issue, they did a deep dive into race in both the outside world and in the magazine itself, hiring John Edwin Mason, a professor with a background in the history of Africa and the history of photography, to look over ‘Nat Geo’s’ history.

“What Mason fond in short was that until the 1970s, National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers. Meanwhile it pictured ‘natives’ elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages – every type of cliché.” – Susan Goldberg, Editor-in-chief of National Geographic

According to Goldberg, they felt it was important to examine the magazine’s own history with race before examining others.

“The coverage wasn’t right before because it was told from an elite, white American point of view, and I think it speaks to exactly why we needed a diversity of storytellers.” – Susan Goldberg, Editor-in-chief of National Geographic

Writer Elizabeth Kolbert notes that race is a social construct more than a biological construct and can have some devastating effects. She claims that racial distinctions not only shape our world’s politics, but even informs neighborhoods and our own sense of self.

“Americans got ideas about the world from Tarzan movies and crude racist caricatures… National Geographic wasn’t teaching as much as reinforcing messages they already received and doing so in a magazine that had tremendous authority.” – John Edwin Mason

In his findings, Professor Mason said that National Geographic did little to inform readers beyond the stereotypes that were already ingrained in the culture of white American.