The Stream

Can National Geographic overcome its racist past?

130-year-old magazine apologises for portraying the world through a racist lens.

National Geographic magazine recently apologised for a history of racism in its coverage of non-Western cultures and people of colour around the world. In this month’s special “The Race Issue”, the 130-year-old publication said it could not now cover stories about race without acknowledging its own past in upholding certain stereotypes.

Known for its iconic photography, National Geographic had long portrayed darker skinned people as uncivilised, and through its imagery, exoticised non-Western cultures for a largely white and Western audience, according to John Edwin Mason, a professor and photography historian at the University of Virginia. The magazine asked Mason to evaluate its coverage of people of colour over the years. 

We’ll ask: What role should media organisations have in dismantling institutional racism? Join the conversation at 1930GMT.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

John Edwin Mason @johnedwinmason
Associate Professor, University of Virginia

Catherine Lutz @Catherine_Lutz
Professor of Anthropology, Brown University

Dr. Shakuntala Banaji @MediaLSE
Associate Professor, London School of Economics

Read more:

For decades, our coverage was racist. To rise above our past, we must acknowledge it – National Geographic
‘It’s about time’: Mixed reaction after National Geographic admits ‘racist’ past in new issue – Chicago Tribune