National Geographic Addresses Past Racism

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Editor's Note:

Also in today’s news: Writing advice about not taking writing advice, and a comic to help students exercise their right to protest. It’s your Daily Blunt!

Founded in 1888, National Geographic has a long and admirable history of introducing readers to locations and cultures all around the world. However, this week the magazine acknowledged a less admirable part of its past, hiring a historian to review and report on decades of racist coverage, in an effort to atone: “To rise above our past, we must acknowledge it.” Their findings? “Until the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers. Meanwhile it pictured ‘natives’ elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages—every type of cliché.” The magazine offers significant examples of how their standards have changed, and aims to spend the rest of 2018 exploring race as a social construct, rather than a biological one.

Do you know a student whose curiosity has been piqued by the recent spate of student and teacher walkouts across America? Hand them this comic created by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) and National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), which has been reproduced in its entirety by Teen Vogue. Even a cursory introduction to their rights as a protester will help cut through some of the fear and intimidation they’ll experience as they participate in their very first protest.

While faith in news reporting reaches perhaps an all-time low, that could also indicate that we’re also losing our tolerance for corruption. Electric Literature has arranged a list of seven books that echo and explore our contemporary woes: “Escape the nepotism, investigations, and white-collar crime with… well, exactly the same thing, but made up.” Their selections go all the way back to Macbeth and all the way forward to Purple Hibiscus by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, spanning a range of cultures and time periods that reveal the recurring nature or our woes. At long last, we’ve isolated the principle uniting all of human civilization: abuses of power, and the widespread fear thereof.

There’s no shortage of writing advice in the world, but Laura van den Berg wants you to listen with extreme skepticism. She expands on this idea over at LitHub, beginning with a quote by Etgar Keret: “If someone gives you a piece of advice that sounds right and feels right, use it. If someone gives you a piece of advice that sounds right and feels wrong, don’t waste so much as a single second on it. It may be fine for someone else, but not for you.” She goes on to use this wisdom to dismantle the familiar writing rule “You have to kill your darlings,” making a strong case for keeping the darlings and trashing the rest.