National Geographic's April 2018 cover for "The Race Issue." (National Geographic)

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National Geographic Calls Itself ‘Racist,’ Says Coverage Will Evolve

Historian employed by Nat Geo says magazine did little to push beyond stereotypes in the past.

National Geographic’s newest issue is framed around race, and the publication’s editor, Susan Goldberg, turned that lens inward to look at how the magazine has covered people of color in the U.S. and abroad since its founding in 1888. Employing preeminent historian John Edwin Mason to help examine their archives, Goldberg writes that some of the findings “will leave you “speechless, like a 1916 story about Australia. Underneath photos of two Aboriginal people, the caption reads: “South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.’”

Goldberg continues:

“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. Unlike magazines such as Life, Mason said, National Geographic did little to push its readers beyond the stereotypes ingrained in white American culture.

Goldberg told readers,

“How we present race matters. I hear from readers that National Geographic provided their first look at the world. Our explorers, scientists, photographers, and writers have taken people to places they’d never even imagined; it’s a tradition that still drives our coverage and of which we’re rightly proud. And it means we have a duty, in every story, to present accurate and authentic depictions—a duty heightened when we cover fraught issues such as race.”

Read more at National Geographic