‘National Geographic’ Reckons With Its Past: ‘Our Coverage Was Racist’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

((Commentary from: Oldpoet56) During my lifetime I probably read articles within National Geographic Magazines about a dozen times. Because I only read spot articles here and there I never realized that they had been this racist. Their history on race is disgusting, and this does disappoint me greatly. I do commend them though on finally recognizing this glaring fault and for having the guts to ‘call themselves out’ on this issue. Hopefully in their future they will eliminate this fault. I know that any of their magazines that I come across in the future I will be looking to see if their racism has stopped.)  

‘National Geographic’ Reckons With Its Past: ‘For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist’

In a full-issue article on Australia that ran in National Geographic in 1916, aboriginal Australians were called “savages” who “rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.” The magazine examines its history of racist coverage in its April issue.

C.P. Scott (L) and H.E. Gregory (R)/National Geographic

If National Geographic‘s April issue was going to be entirely devoted to the subject of race, the magazine decided it had better take a good hard look at its own history.

Editor in Chief Susan Goldberg asked John Edwin Mason, a professor of African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia, to dive into the magazine’s nearly 130-year archive and report back.

What Mason found was a long tradition of racism in the magazine’s coverage: in its text, its choice of subjects, and in its famed photography.

Enlarge this image

The April issue of National Geographic is all about race.

National Geographic

“[U]ntil the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers,” writes Goldberg in the issue’s editor letter, where she discusses Mason’s findings. “Meanwhile it pictured ‘natives’ elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages—every type of cliché.”

Unlike magazines such as Life, National Geographic did little to push its readers beyond the stereotypes ingrained in white American culture,” Goldberg says, noting that she is the first woman and first Jewish person to helm the magazine – “two groups that also once faced discrimination here.”

To assess the magazine’s coverage historically, Mason delved into old issues and read a couple of key critical studies. He also pored over photographers’ contact sheets, giving him a view of not just the photos that made it into print, but also the decisions that photographers and editors made.

He saw a number of problematic themes emerge.

“The photography, like the articles, didn’t simply emphasize difference, but made difference … very exotic, very strange, and put difference into a hierarchy,” Mason tells NPR. “And that hierarchy was very clear: that the West, and especially the English-speaking world, was at the top of the hierarchy. And black and brown people were somewhere underneath.”

For much of its history, the pages of National Geographic depicted the Western world as dynamic, forward-moving and very rational. Meanwhile, Mason says, “the black and brown world was primitive and backwards and generally unchanging.”

One trope that he noticed time and again were photographs showing native people apparently fascinated by Westerners’ technology.

“It’s not simply that cameras and jeeps and airplanes are present,” he says. “It’s the people of color looking at this technology in amusement or bewilderment.” The implication was that Western readers would find humor in such fascination with their everyday goods.

Then there’s how the magazine chose its subject matter. Mason explains that National Geographic had an explicit editorial policy of “nothing unpleasant,” so readers rarely saw war, famine or civic conflict.

He points to an article on South Africa from the early 1960s that barely mentions the Sharpeville Massacre, in which 69 black South Africans were killed by police.

South African gold miners were “entranced by thundering drums” during “vigorous tribal dances,” a 1962 issue reported.

Kip Ross/National Geographic Creative

“There are no voices of black South Africans,” Mason told Goldberg. “That absence is as important as what is in there. The only black people are doing exotic dances … servants or workers. It’s bizarre, actually, to consider what the editors, writers, and photographers had to consciously not see.”

Then there’s the way women of color were often depicted in the magazine: topless.

“Teenage boys could always rely, in the ’50s and ’60s, on National Geographic to show them bare-breasted women as long as the women had brown or black skin,” Mason says. “I think the editors understood this was frankly a selling point to its male readers. Some of the bare-breasted young women are shot in a way that almost resembles glamour shots.”

Mason says the magazine has been dealing with its history implicitly for the last two or three decades, but what made this project different is that Goldberg wanted to make reckoning explicit — “That National Geographic should not do an issue on race without understanding its own complicity in shaping understandings of race and racial hierarchy.”

Although slave labor was used to build homes featured in a 1956 article, the writer contended that they “stand for a chapter of this country’s history every American is proud to remember.”

Robert F. Sisson and Donald McBain/National Geographic

For those of us who have spent long afternoons thumbing old issues of the magazine and dreaming of far-off lands, Mason wants to make clear that looking at foreign people and places isn’t a bad thing.

“We’re all curious and we all want to see. I’m not criticizing the idea of being curious about the world. It’s just the other messages that are sent—that it’s not just difference, but inferiority and superiority.”

So where does the storied publication go from here?

One good step would be to invite the diverse contributors to the April issue to become part of the magazine’s regular pool of writers and photographers, Mason suggests.

“Still it’s too often a Westerner who is telling us about Africa or Asia or Latin America,” he says. “There are astonishing photographers from all over the world who have unique visions – not just of their own country, but who could bring a unique vision to photographing Cincinnati, Ohio, if it came to that.”

He notes that the magazine’s images have so often captivated, even when they were stereotypical or skewed. Mason says a number of African photographers have told him that it was magazines like National Geographic and Life that turned them onto photography in the first place.

“They knew that there were problems with the way that they and their people were being represented,” he says. “And yet the photography was often spectacularly good, it was really inviting, and it carried this power. And as young people, these men and women said, I want to do that. I want to make pictures like that.”

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Louisiana Police Officer Sues Black Lives Matter Leaders Over Baton Rouge Shooting

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

Louisiana Police Officer Sues Black Lives Matter Leaders Over Baton Rouge Shooting

Jul 07, 2017

A Louisiana police officer who was wounded in a Baton Rouge shooting last year that left three officers dead sued Black Lives Matter leaders on Friday, claiming they incited violence that prompted the attack.

Filed in a U.S. district court in Louisiana, the lawsuit names DeRay McKessonand four other leaders from Black Lives Matter as defendants and seeks at least $75,000 in damages, Reuters reports.

The attack on the police officers occurred last July, amid protests in Baton Rouge over the death of Alton Sterling, a black man who was killed by police.

Black Lives Matter leaders have denied their movement calls for violence against police officers, Reuters reports.

Gavin Long, the black gunman who killed the Baton Rouge police officers and was later killed at the scene, was targeting police and had a history of making violent and incendiary posts online.

The unnamed officer who filed the lawsuit was one of three officers injured in the shooting. The lawsuit comes on the one-year anniversary of a sniper attack in Dallas, in which five police officers were killed during a demonstration against police shootings of black men.

Racist Folks In America

Racist Folks In America

 

Before I get into this post where I am giving you my opinions and beliefs about this subject matter I though it would be a good thing to see exactly what the dictionary had to say about the issue first so I copy pasted that definition next.

racism definition

The belief that some races are inherently superior (physically, intellectually, or culturally) to others and therefore have a right to dominate them. In the United States, racism, particularly by whites against blacks, has created profound racial tension and conflict in virtually all aspects of American society. Until the breakthroughs achieved by the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, white domination over blacks was institutionalized and supported in all branches and levels of government, by denying blacks their civil rights and opportunities to participate in political, economic, and social communities.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source
I am a white man who was born in the southeastern United States in 1956. The town I was born in had a population during the night-time of about 7,000 people where about 6,500 were white folks and black folks made up almost all of the other 500 people as back then I do not remember any other nationalities being present. (The town population during the day time was about 20,000 as the smaller communities came to town to work in the factories). We moved away from Virginia on my ninth birthday in 1965 to the Black Hills of South Dakota where we lived for 15 months before we moved to norther Illinois about 80 miles west of Chicago. I have spent almost all of my adult life either in Texas or in a few different south-eastern states. I give you this information for clarity purposes so that you don’t have to guess. Most all of my adult life I drove a truck as a long haul driver running the lower 48 states and Canada. I did this from 1981-2013 until my old military injuries made it impossible to continue working and I had to retire in June of 2013. I logged over five million miles behind the windshield of a truck, during this time I picked up and delivered to several thousand different businesses and had the opportunity to speak with thousands of different people all over the U.S. and Canada and to listen to the different things and opinions of a wide groups of people. I am going to tell you the opinions I have garnered throughout my life time on the race issue.
First, as a young child the town I was born in is in a bit of a valley, on the north hill of the town was where almost all black folks lived and I still remember that community being called “nigger hill”. While we lived there I was young and oblivious to the plight of black folks because I pretty much never saw any and race was an issue that was not a topic in our household. I was never a person that cared at all what color any person was, I didn’t know then that race was an issue in our country. There is no doubt in my mind that by the Scriptures of the New Testament and by the teachings of Jesus Christ that this hatred of racism is a huge sin trap that has and will get millions if not billions of people condemned at their judgement before Christ and His angels. When Jesus rose from the dead in 29 A.D. all people’s became eligible to be brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Remember, “all tongues, all nations”, not just white, or brown, or black folks, all who come to Christ makes us all one family under God. Remember Jesus said “if we hate our brother without a cause then we are condemning our own souls”. Without a cause, simply meaning that if we hate a person or persons because of something that is not the persons fault then we are the sinners who do that. People, what color we have on our skin when we come out of the womb is something we have no say so in. If I hate you simply because you are not white or you hate me solely because I am white, we will be living in the same flames of Hell forever.
What I have learned from American history books and from those who are older than I am about how all minorities were treated, as a Christian just makes me sick at my stomach. In 1968 when Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis Tennessee I was not quite twelve years old and it was the first time I had ever heard of him. From this point on is where I started learning about race issues here in America. These are my opinions on what I have learned during these past 50 years. One, Dr. King was a very good person who was for non-violent equality for “all people” but many of the people who want to hold him up as a great “black leader” pay no attention to the things he fought and died for as a human being and as a Christian. I totally believe that Dr. King would be absolutely shocked and disgusted at how horrible and evil so many are today that claim to be black leaders, especially those who dare call themselves Christians.
Before the Civil Rights movement started in earnest during the mid to late 1960’s I personally could not blame all non-white folks if they hated every white person on the planet. These older folks (today I am mainly only talking about black folks) that lived through the times of blatant institutional racism in every corner of this country, they are entitled to hate if anyone is actually entitled to such a thing, not so much the black folks who have only lived here during the past 45 years or so. Almost every where I traveled throughout the country I witnessed racism. But, by far the most racist hate filled people have been young (under 50) black folks. I have found that race and what color people are tend to be a constant verbal subject. The less educated people are the more racist it seems, they tend to be ones who think it is cool to act big and bad and gangster and then wonder why other races shun them. When I have been around different nationalities of people they are not talking about colors of people simply because most people simply do not care what your skin color is, they only care about if a person is a good person, a good worker, or a good neighbor. When I have been working around groups of younger black males in particular race seems to be the issue of discussion about 80% or so of the time.
I tend to watch the ABC Evening News now that I am home all the time but I think I am going to switch over full-time to watching of the BBC News because of the blatant racism of the programs and their commentators in general at ABC. An example of this is when there were several black churches in the St. Louis Missouri area that were burnt down via arson. It was a story until law enforcement arrested the person who they say did it, then it became a non-story because it was a black man who did it. We all know very well that if it had been a white person who did it the media would have been jumping all over the news wires with that story. For those of us who are old enough, do you remember back in about 1981-2 there were a lot of young black folks being murdered around Atlanta Georgia and it was a huge deal as it should have been, up until they caught the person and he was a black man, story over. Just as you never hear of the times when a black police officer shoots and or beats up non-blacks, especially whites. Here in America the black population is supposed to be about 14% compared to about 50% white yet year after year the stats show that per ratio black on white violence is at a five to one rate yet the media stays quiet on telling the truth on any of these issues.
You hear a lot from racist black folks like some of the swindlers that call themselves preachers who have little in common with Christianity. The un-humorist part of this is how the younger black folks are turning away from Christianity calling it a white people’s religion, this is very stupid and very racist. Also just look around at the first names young black people are calling their children by, anything but a Biblical name. For years now I have seen and heard black women who refuse to shave the hair from their arm pits or on their legs saying they weren’t because they don’t want to “be like them white bitches”. True there are still racist in every color of skin including white folks but the American black culture is its own worse enemy at the current time. You still hear the stupidity of many uneducated black folks talking about how “we used to be slaves” so they feel that the Nation owes them a good living because of it. Not one of these people who were born in this country has ever been a slave, nor does anyone even know a person who used to be a slave. If the history books had not printed it most would not know that history, and that history is without a doubt sickening. Plus none of the white folks alive today have ever at any time owned any slaves. Besides back in the early and mid 1800’s most white folks were nothing but sharecroppers and peasants. They never owned any slaves either, there were very few slave owners, you had to be rich and you to own land. So today, no one ‘owes’ anyone a free-living, we all have to go out and earn it.
Don’t believe me, then think of these issues. Black History Month, NAACP, Black Churches, Black Miss America Pageant, Black Colleges and the Negro College Fund, TV programs called ‘Blackish’, BET (Black Entertainment Television) and such lists go on and on. Now what if there was such a thing as White History Month, National Association Of White People, White Churches or a White only Miss America Pageant, White Colleges or the White Peoples College Fund, ‘Whiteish’ TV programs and WET (White Entertainment Television)? Black folks as well as all non-white people would have every right to be boiling mad about such blatant racism yet American Black society thinks it is okay for themselves to be racist. These people are dead wrong so I just hope that before each one of those folks die that they see the sins they themselves are guilty of. For all people’s of the Earth, if we are racist in our hearts, we are Hell bound! All racism is evil, all racism is a product of Satan, don’t get me wrong, I have known and witnessed a whole lot of racism toward Blacks, Hispanics, Indians and Asians by white people and every thing about it is sickening and evil. Yet I as a white person have experienced pure hatred simply because I am a white person by people from all of the races I just mentioned but by far the most hatred I have experienced has come from younger black folks. Yet I know from experience that when we met they were just taking it for granted that because I was white, I was a racist. I have had quite a few black friends throughout the years and all it took was for them to realize that I really didn’t give a damn that they were black. We as a Nation, we as a world, we have got to stop this stupidly, this evil, or we are going to implode.