National Geographic Editor Admits: 'Our Coverage Was Racist'

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In an article from the appropriately-titled Race Issue, published online today, the magazine's editor in chief Susan Goldberg wrote about the racist, often colonialist lens the magazine saw the world through for much of its 129-year history. Its archives are loaded with pictures of brown-skinned "natives" gazing in apparent awe at Western technology, articles referring to tribal peoples as "savages", and of course many, many photos of bare-breasted Pacific island women striking vaguely seductive poses.

She added that the publication "pictured "natives" elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages-every type of cliché".

With Overlooked, our new collection of obituaries for women and others who never got them, The Times is acknowledging that many worthy subjects were skipped for generations, for whatever reasons.

National Geographichas shined a light on its racist practice. That absence is as important as what is in there.

Goldberg is both the first female and first Jewish editor of National Geographic, both of which she says would have faced discrimination within the organization.

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.

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"It's also a conversation that is changing in real time: In two years, for the first time in United States history, less than half the children in the nation will be white", she wrote. "But when we made a decision to devote our April magazine to the topic of race, we thought we should examine our own history before turning our reportorial gaze to others". "It's freakish, actually, to consider what the editors, writers, and photographers had to consciously not see".

Until the 1970s, National Geographic did little to challenge stereotypes in white American culture, Mason found.

He said that the publication was guilty of "reinforcing messages [Americans] already received" in regards to concepts of race informed more by caricature than fact.

National Geographic was one of the first advocates of using colour photography in its pages, and is well known for its coverage of history, science, environmentalism and the far corners of the world. And then there's the excess of pictures of attractive Pacific-island women.

In 2015, they handed the camera over to a Haitian photography to document the reality of the world through their lens. That would have been "unthinkable" in National Geographic's past, Mason said. "Trying to integrate the magazine media with more hiring of diverse writers and minorities in the magazine field is how we apologize for the past", Husni said.

"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. "Not only about the stories we chose to tell and how we told them but about the diverse group of writers, editors, and photographers behind the work".