National Geographic Admits To Racist Coverage, Promises Change

National Geographic is trying to reckon with its racist past

National Geographic is trying to reckon with its racist past

The April issue of National Geographic "explores how race defines, separates, and unites us".

National Geographic first put out an issue in the year 1888.

Pictures of bare-breasted women and natives in thrall to western cameras fuelled colonialist attitudes, according to a review commissioned by the magazine. An investigation conducted by photography historian from University of Virginia, John Edwin Mason, who was hired by Goldberg, showed that for generations, the magazine all but ignored people of color in the United States.

Goldberg cited one example from 1916 in which a photo depicted two Aboriginal Australian people with a caption that read: "South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings".

This examination comes as other media organizations are also casting a critical eye on their past.

"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".

Mason also found problems with some of what was not covered in the magazine. "People of colour were often pictured as living as if their ancestors might have lived several hundreds of years ago and that's in contrast to westerners who are always fully clothed and often carrying technology".

With race at the epicenter of its April issue, National Geographic assessed the content of its past issues, which the magazine acknowledged revolved around reinforcing the message of discrimination that was already ingrained in the American white culture. And now the magazine is trying to make up for it.

White teenage boys "could count on every issue or two of National Geographic having some brown skin bare breasts for them to look at, and I think editors at National Geographic knew that was one of the appeals of their magazine, because women, especially Asian women from the pacific islands, were photographed in ways that were nearly glamour shots".

She said, "It hurts to share the appalling stories from the magazine's past".

"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", Goldberg said. It now can be found in 172 countries and in 43 languages every month.