National Geographic: ‘Our coverage was racist’

Latest news

    A collage of National Geographic coversImage copyright SHUTTERSTOCK
    Image caption National Geographic’s first edition was in 1888

    US magazine National Geographic says its past coverage of people around the world was racist.

    It ignored non-white Americans and showed different groups as exotic or savage, propagating “every type of cliché”, editor Susan Goldberg said.

    The magazine’s April edition is dedicated to race and it has asked a historian to look at past issues.

    It decided to re-examine its coverage to mark 50 years since civil rights leader Martin Luther King was murdered.

    “Let’s confront today’s shameful use of racism as a political strategy and prove we are better than this,” Ms Goldberg wrote in an editorial entitled “For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist”.

    Ms Goldberg said some of the magazine’s archive material left her “speechless”, including a 1916 photo of Australian Aborigines with the caption “South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings”.

    Asked to examine its coverage, University of Virginia associate professor John Edwin Mason said National Geographic had served only to reinforce racist attitudes in a magazine with “tremendous authority”.

    He showed that until the 1970s the magazine ignored non-white Americans, only showing them as labourers or domestic staff.

    You may also be interested in:

    Prof Mason also pointed to photos of natives encountering Western technology – creating an “us-and-them” split between “civilized and uncivilized” – and the excessive numbers of photos of Pacific-island women.

    He compared a piece covering apartheid-era South Africa in 1962 – which barely mentions any problems – and a second piece from 1977, which shows opposition to the regime by black leaders.

    “It’s not a perfect article, but it acknowledges the oppression,” Prof Mason wrote.

    Image copyright AFP/Getty
    Image caption The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination will be on 4 April

    But the historian also acknowledged the good work the magazine did even during this period in showing its readers the wider world.

    “It’s possible to say that a magazine can open people’s eyes at the same time it closes them,” he said.

    National Geographic: Key facts

    • The magazine’s first edition came out in September 1888 after formation of non-profit education group, the National Geographic Society
    • Circulation of over six million worldwide, down from 12 million in the late 1980s
    • Originally a text magazine before adopting photo coverage in January 1905 issue
    • 1982 cover altered a photo of the pyramids at Giza, leading to the first digital Photoshop scandal
    • June 1985 cover was the famous green-eyed Afghan Girl – a refugee child in Pakistan
    View the original article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-43384747

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-43384747

    In the same category are

    New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern’s baby premieres among world leaders Image copyright Reuters Image caption This is newborn Neve's first international trip since being born on 21 June New Zealand Prime Minister Jacin...
    Water shortages fuel ongoing protests in Basra, Iraq Electricity and drinking water are in short supply in the Iraqi city of Basra.More than 20 protesters were killed earlier this month when anti-governm...
    Mike Hall: UK cyclist died instantly in race collision, inquest told Image copyright Gene Kehoe Image caption Mike Hall was fatally struck car during a road race in Australia British endurance cyclist Mike Hall died...
    Dara O’Briain on why comedians are reluctant to do Mock The Week Image caption Hugh Dennis and Dara O'Briain have appeared in every episode of the show since its 2005 launch Mock The Week has been a TV comedy st...
    Bodyguard: David Budd could help save lives of those with PTSD Image caption David Budd admitted at the conclusion of the drama that he needed help Warning. This article contains spoilers.When six weeks of nai...
    Fetishised and forgotten: Why bisexuals want acceptance Image caption Katie Salmon says she was most hurt by the biphobia coming from the LGBT community Bisexuals face hostility from their own LGBT comm...

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.