OPINION: National Geographic admits their sins of the past

by | Mar 16, 2018 | Opinion

Rucha Deverchetti


National Geographic has turned the tables. It took 130 years and a Jewish woman to admit the magazine was racist for decades. The same woman now wants the publication to give up its appalling past and move towards a future free of bias.

This change in approach comes at a time when the demographics of one of the world’s most powerful countries is changing and its repercussions will surely be felt far and wide.

Susan Goldberg’s words have set the wheels in motion for everyone beyond just America to wake up and look at its people. She urged readers to examine the reasons of segregation between races and avoid using discrimination as a political agenda. Her plans for National Geographic involve accurate and authentic reportage that does not waver when covering different people in the world. Goldberg wants the magazine to denote the vast majority of voices that it avoided since its inception.

And the U.S. may be a model to prove just that.

As the non-white population is rapidly increasing in the biggest economy in the world, how prepared are other nations to accept these changes?

The Western Hemisphere has offered refuge to ambitions and adventure since the influx of Europeans. The home of innovation and New World philosophy, it soon became powerful through its approach to life and breaking the shackles of the Old World to make its own rules.

It took a single revolution to restructure humanity as it was then, and it will take the same to reshape our attitude towards people now.

National Geographic’s admission has thrown the spotlight on how a metamorphosis is soon to hit our Newer World. Our opinions about the simplistic notions of life might soon be upturned, considering they are already under threat. This reorganized platform may either herald the arrival of a utopian world or destroy whatever peace remains in this one.

One of the best ways to examine how a nation thinks is to take a look at its public voices and its literature. The admission from one of the most popular magazines in America reflects a small rivulet in the sea of change that is likely to hit everyone. The media will particularly have to restructure its behaviour and stick to its principles of fairness now more so than ever.

This is easier said than done.

Indirect biases have ruled reportage for decades, and time has made it no better. We try as much as we can to steer away from them but our inherent subconscious creates trouble for us nevertheless. It’s not completely our fault, we are engineered in a way that makes us stick to our initial notions. National Geographic’s inception at the time of colonialism reflected in its coverage for 130 years. Finally, it awoke and questioned its own vision.

The time has come to embrace a new order, hopefully better than what we have right now. It’s safer if we accept our mistakes and correct them well in time before we struggle to stay afloat in the waves of change. Our characteristic behaviour should make way for the new system, the newer thought process that we may soon be a part of.

National Geographic is just the start. More voices will stand up and change the way we think, until the next revolution begins.