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“The schools we go to are a reflection of the society that created them. Nobody is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that knowledge will help set you free. Schools in Amerika are interested in brainwashing people with Amerikanism, giving them a little bit of education, and training them in skills needed to fill the positions the capitalist system requires. As long as we expect Amerika’s schools to educate us, we will remain ignorant.” -Assata Shakur
The editor’s letter contains the following acknowledgments of the publication’s historic racism:
• African Americans were not allowed to be members of National Geographic, at least through the 1940s. (NOTE: National Geographic was established in 1888.)
• For the April 2018 issue, National Geographic got Professor John Edwin Mason to explore the magazine’s archives and make an assessment of the publication’s coverage of Black people. He found that, “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 Professor concluded, “National Geographic did little to push its readers beyond the stereotypes ingrained in white American culture.” He states: “Americans got ideas about the world from Tarzan and crude racist caricatures. Segregation was the way it was. National Geographic wasn’t teaching as much as reinforcing messages they already received and doing so in a magazine that had tremendous authority. National Geographic comes into existence at the height of colonialism, and the world was divided into the colonizers and the colonized. That was a color line, and National Geographic was reflecting that view of the world.”
• National Geographic printed a caption under a 1916 photograph of two Australian Aboriginals, “South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.”
• The magazine was guilty of omitting national news that dealt with major injustices involving people of African descent. Referencing a “massacre” that occurred in South Africa in 1959 where 69 Black South Africans were murdered by police in Sharpeville, “many shot in the back as they fled,” Professor Mason states that a subsequent article about South Africa in National Geographic: “Barely mentions any problems. There are no voices of black South Africans. That absence is as important as what is in there. The only black people are doing exotic dances…servants or workers. It’s bizarre, actually, to consider what the editors, writers, and photographers had to consciously not see.”
On March 18, 2018, Stephon Clark, an unarmed Black man, was murdered while standing in his backyard. The young father was killed by police officers who were allegedly responding to a report of someone breaking windows out of cars. Stephon Clark, who was holding a cellphone while standing in his backyard, was fired upon by the Sacramento police.
According to The New York Times: “Video from body cameras and a police helicopter overhead showed that officers shouted that Mr. Clark had a gun, and them fired 20 shots, continuing to shoot after he dropped to his hands and knees.
When officers examined Mr. Clark’s body, however, the only object they found was a cellphone.”
It has been reported that the Attorney General of Sacramento is investigating this shooting of Stephon Clark. If the “justice” received for the too-many-to-count precedents of unarmed Black men, women, and children killed by “law enforcement” is any indication of the level of “justice” that can be expected from the system for Stephon Clark, not much should be anticipated.
Protests expressing outrage for the murder of Stephon Clark has spread nationwide.