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Today I Read National Geographic was racist

In advance of their April issue on race, National Geographic reflected back on their 130 year racist history.


Quick Summary: Taking an unsparing look at their past, National Geographic has admitted to perpetuating racial stereotypes and a racial hierarchy in their photo coverage. The main reason for the acknowledgement is to rise above their past and work to improve future representations of all people. University of Virginia professor of African history and photography, John Edwin Mason, noted that up until the 1970s the magazine's readers (mostly white and middle class) were only presented images of primitive, savage and unclothed, black people which undoubtedly shaped perception.


Big Takeaway: Although admitting you have a problem is the first step towards recovery, the irony is that the cover of the race issue was shot by a white photographer as Brent Lewis, of ESPN’s The Undefeated points out.


Something I did not know: In 2004 Kentucky's Lexington Herald-Leader acknowledged: “It has come to the editor’s attention that The Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement,” it read. “We regret the omission.”


Makes me feel/think about: Much like Brent Lewis, I too am disappointed that National Geographic failed to ensure a minority photographer was featured on the cover of the race issue. Given the magazine's intent, more of an effort should have gone towards ensuring the entire issue represented the underrepresented. Actions always speak louder than words. My hope is that future businesses and organizations work to rectify their racist- or sexist- or homophobic- past through concrete actions going forward.

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