National Geographic’s race cover story misconstrues multiraciality

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive on 2018-04-02 22:42Z by Steven

National Geographic’s race cover story misconstrues multiraciality

The McGill Tribune
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
2018-04-02

Emma Avery, Managing Editor

When I first read Patricia Edmonds’ cover story on Millie and Marcia Biggs—half-black, half-white fraternal twins—for National Geographic’s April 2018 Race Issue, I felt conflicted. As a person of mixed race, with a father from Hong Kong and a mother of largely Scottish descent, I was happy for this family’s opportunity to share their experiences. Although national media are increasingly latching onto stories about race, people of mixed race don’t often get the spotlight.

National Geographic’s cover is undoubtedly an attempt to normalize multiraciality and destabilize false notions of ‘race’ as a natural category. Yet, by focusing on the visual differences between the twins, the article misses more meaningful and nuanced questions of culture and identity that people such as myself often grapple with. Instead, it places mixed race children on a pedestal that risks exoticizing them…

Read the entire article here.

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Racism and multiracialism can be allies.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-03-25 02:48Z by Steven

Last year, I predicted 2017 (and the era of Trump more generally) would be a time of renewed faith in the political efficacy of interracial romance and procreation. This prediction was informed by two recent books — one by UC Irvine professor Jared Sexton, the other by NYU professor Tavia Nyong’o — which probe the way racial hybridity is used to avoid reflection and recollection on how white supremacy works. NatGeo’s cover illustration, which codes one biracial twin as “white” and the other as “black,” transmits the idea that racism will be fixed with more lightly bronzed children. This future utopia is one in which children who can pass for white still exist among their tanner peers, but those with dark skin and tightly coiled hair do not. This hope, which imagines a past of white racial “purity,” is a form of anti-blackness itself. Racism and multiracialism can be allies.

Lauren Michele Jackson, “National Geographic Replaces Racist Fictions With Post-racial Fantasies,” New York Magazine, March 16, 2018. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/03/natl-geographics-racist-fictions-and-post-racial-fantasies.html.

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National Geographic Replaces Racist Fictions With Post-racial Fantasies

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2018-03-24 19:49Z by Steven

National Geographic Replaces Racist Fictions With Post-racial Fantasies

New York Magazine
2018-03-16

Lauren Michele Jackson


Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic. Photograph by Robin Hammond

In her honest but odd memoir that it seems, thankfully, few besides me have read, National Geographic emerges as a crucial touchstone to Rachel Dolezal’s supposed racial awakening. Isolated regionally and culturally by Christian-fundamentalist parents, copies of the magazine were one of the few tokens from 1980s and ’90s American culture allowed to Dolezal in a home that forbade television and processed food. And while her older brother scrounged pages for photos of topless women, NatGeo begat Rachel’s earliest racial fantasies. Coating herself in mud from head to feet, she “would pretend to be a dark-skinned princess in the Sahara Desert or one of the Bantu women living in the Congo,” images conjured exclusively by the monthly magazine. “I would stay in this fantasy world as long as I possibly could,” Dolezal writes. “It was never long enough.”

Over the last century, National Geographic has used the guise of ethnographic research to stoke the racial imaginations of curious white people. Investigating peoples and cultures like flora, splaying their images upon glossy pages with unchecked fascination, the magazine does not have a great track record when it comes to stories about people of color. And yet, these are the stories NatGeo is most famous for, training generation after generation to gawk at peoples other than themselves through telephoto lenses. Founded in 1888 to document the interests of affluent explorers, the name alone evokes a colonial impulse — the National Geographic Society started as a private club dedicated to worldly, exotic travel. The publication has long been an unrepentant descendant of those beginnings — until now, allegedly…

Read the entire article here.

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National Geographic acknowledges its racist past, then steps on its message with a cover photo

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Social Justice, Social Science, United States on 2018-03-18 04:12Z by Steven

National Geographic acknowledges its racist past, then steps on its message with a cover photo

The Washington Post
2018-03-16

Victor Ray, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of Tennessee. Knoxville

National Geographic has long offered a kind of pop-cultural imperialist anthropology that centers the white gaze and exoticizes people of color. The current issue of the magazine makes a brave attempt to deal with that messy history around race and racism.

To get an outsider’s view of its coverage of race, National Geographic hired the University of Virginia history professor John Edwin Mason, who studies the history of photography and African history. Mason found that the magazine was often on the wrong side of racial history. For instance, it glossed over the historical significance of the brutal 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, in which white South African police killed 69 unarmed peaceful protesters.

National Geographic’s editors rarely questioned the colonial legacy and power relations that allowed its photographers and writers to shape a global conversation on race and difference that was too accommodating to white supremacy. I was happy to see the magazine take up the laudable goal of addressing its racial history. Many mainstream publications, were they to examine their own history surrounding coverage of race and the protection of white supremacy, would probably not fare much better than National Geographic.

Unfortunately, the cover story for this issue traffics in the very racial cliches the magazine’s editor says National Geographic was guilty of in the past. The cover photo depicts 11-year-old mixed-race twin girls, with the tabloid-esque framing that one is black, the other white. And the headline makes the grand claim that the girls’ story will “make us rethink everything we know about race.”

Read the entire article here.

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What this means is that the deepest splits in the human family aren’t between what are usually thought of as different races—whites, say, or blacks or Asians or Native Americans. They’re between African populations…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-03-14 21:33Z by Steven

By analyzing the genes of present-day Africans, researchers have concluded that the Khoe-San, who now live in southern Africa, represent one of the oldest branches of the human family tree. The Pygmies of central Africa also have a very long history as a distinct group. What this means is that the deepest splits in the human family aren’t between what are usually thought of as different races—whites, say, or blacks or Asians or Native Americans. They’re between African populations such as the Khoe-San and the Pygmies, who spent tens of thousands of years separated from one another even before humans left Africa.

Elizabeth Kolbert, “There’s No Scientific Basis for Race—It’s a Made-Up Label,” National Geographic, April 2018. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/04/race-genetics-science-africa/.

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There’s No Scientific Basis for Race—It’s a Made-Up Label

Posted in Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive on 2018-03-13 18:09Z by Steven

There’s No Scientific Basis for Race—It’s a Made-Up Label

National Geographic
April 2018 (The Race Issue)

By Elizabeth Kolbert
Photographs by Robin Hammond


The four letters of the genetic code —A, C, G, and T—are projected onto Ryan Lingarmillar, a Ugandan. DNA reveals what skin color obscures: We all have African ancestors.

It’s been used to define and separate people for millennia. But the concept of race is not grounded in genetics.

In the first half of the 19th century, one of America’s most prominent scientists was a doctor named Samuel Morton. Morton lived in Philadelphia, and he collected skulls.

He wasn’t choosy about his suppliers. He accepted skulls scavenged from battlefields and snatched from catacombs. One of his most famous craniums belonged to an Irishman who’d been sent as a convict to Tasmania (and ultimately hanged for killing and eating other convicts). With each skull Morton performed the same procedure: He stuffed it with pepper seeds—later he switched to lead shot—which he then decanted to ascertain the volume of the braincase.

Morton believed that people could be divided into five races and that these represented separate acts of creation. The races had distinct characters, which corresponded to their place in a divinely determined hierarchy. Morton’s “craniometry” showed, he claimed, that whites, or “Caucasians,” were the most intelligent of the races. East Asians—Morton used the term “Mongolian”—though “ingenious” and “susceptible of cultivation,” were one step down. Next came Southeast Asians, followed by Native Americans. Blacks, or “Ethiopians,” were at the bottom. In the decades before the Civil War, Morton’s ideas were quickly taken up by the defenders of slavery…


Skulls from the collection of Samuel Morton, the father of scientific racism, illustrate his classification of people into five races—which arose, he claimed, from separate acts of creation. From left to right: a black woman and a white man, both American; an indigenous man from Mexico; a Chinese woman; and a Malaysian man.
Photograph by Robert Clark
PHOTOGRAPHED AT PENN MUSEUM

…By analyzing the genes of present-day Africans, researchers have concluded that the Khoe-San, who now live in southern Africa, represent one of the oldest branches of the human family tree. The Pygmies of central Africa also have a very long history as a distinct group. What this means is that the deepest splits in the human family aren’t between what are usually thought of as different races—whites, say, or blacks or Asians or Native Americans. They’re between African populations such as the Khoe-San and the Pygmies, who spent tens of thousands of years separated from one another even before humans left Africa

Read the entire article here.

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These Twins, One Black and One White, Will Make You Rethink Race

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2018-03-13 14:32Z by Steven

These Twins, One Black and One White, Will Make You Rethink Race

National Geographic
The Race Issue
April 2018

Patricia Edmonds


Marcia (left) and Millie Biggs, both 11, say people are shocked to learn that they’re fraternal twins. Marcia looks more like their mother, who’s English born, and Millie looks more like their father, who’s of Jamaican descent.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBIN HAMMOND

Marcia and Millie Biggs say they’ve never been subjected to racism—just curiosity and surprise that twins could have such different skin colors.

When Amanda Wanklin and Michael Biggs fell in love, they “didn’t give a toss” about the challenges they might face as a biracial couple, Amanda says. “What was more important was what we wanted together.”

They settled down in Birmingham, England, eager to start a family. On July 3, 2006, Amanda gave birth to fraternal twin girls, and the ecstatic parents gave their daughters intertwined names: One would be Millie Marcia Madge Biggs, the other Marcia Millie Madge Biggs.

From a young age the girls had similar features but very different color schemes. Marcia had light brown hair and fair skin like her English-born mother. Millie had black hair and brown skin like her father, who’s of Jamaican descent. “We never worried about it; we just accepted it,” Michael says…

…odern science confirms “that the visible differences between peoples are accidents of history”—the result of mutations, migrations, natural selection, the isolation of some populations, and interbreeding among others, writes science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. They are not racial differences because the very concept of race—to quote DNA-sequencing pioneer Craig Venter—“has no genetic or scientific basis.”

And yet 50 years after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., racial identity has reemerged as a fundamental dividing line in our world…

Read the entire article here.

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What It Was Like Being Mixed-Race Photographed By National Geographic

Posted in Articles, Arts, Census/Demographics, Communications/Media Studies, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-07-31 19:59Z by Steven

What It Was Like Being Mixed-Race Photographed By National Geographic

Multiracial Asian Families: thinking about race, families, children, and the intersection of mixed ID/Asian
2015-07-29

Sharon H Chang

Remember these pictures? They were part of National Geographic’s mixed race photo campaign “Changing Faces” published in October 2013. “We’re becoming a country,” stated the magazine, “Where race is no longer so black and white.” The images were shot by famous German portrait photographer Martin Schoeller who said he liked “building catalogs of faces that invite people to compare them.” I think it’s safe to say that happened. The gallery was widely viewed (it being National Geographic after all) and more or less greatly admired (it being Martin Schoeller after all). But there was some criticism, including my own, which I wrote about for Racism Review in “Mixed or Not, Why Are We Still Taking Pictures of “Race”?” One of the larger questions I raised was around the idea that we use images of mixed race people to debate race, without including those mixed folk in the debate themselves. I concluded that essay with a proclamation:

While modern race-photography believes itself to be celebrating the dismantling of race, it may actually be fooling us (and itself) with a fantastically complicated show of smoke and mirrors…We need to make much, MUCH more space for something ultimately pretty simple — the stories of actual people themselves which in the end, will paint the real picture.

But here’s a truth I want to share with you. I also felt at the time that me making this proclamation wasn’t enough. That I had to do more than just say it. I needed to live it; make a commitment to the practice I was preaching. So. As an old friend used to say, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” Soon after making this personal resolve I had the amazing good fortune of running into Alejandro T. Acierto, a mixed race identifying person who was photographed for National Geographic’s campaign. He graciously agreed share with me/us what “Changing Faces” was like for him through his own experience, his own words, and his own lens…

Read the entire interview here.

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Tracking the First Americans

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Mexico on 2015-01-11 00:25Z by Steven

Tracking the First Americans

National Geographic
January 2015

Glenn Hodges, Staff Writer

New finds, theories, and genetic discoveries are revolutionizing our understanding of the first Americans.

The first face of the first Americans belongs to an unlucky teenage girl who fell to her death in a Yucatán cave some 12,000 to 13,000 years ago. Her bad luck is science’s good fortune. The story of her discovery begins in 2007, when a team of Mexican divers led by Alberto Nava made a startling find: an immense submerged cavern they named Hoyo Negro, the “black hole.” At the bottom of the abyss their lights revealed a bed of prehistoric bones, including at least one nearly complete human skeleton.


Photograph by Paul Nicklen.  Set upside down to keep its teeth in place, the skull of a young woman found in an underwater cave in Mexico has put a face on the New World’s first inhabitants.

Nava reported the discovery to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, which brought together an international team of archaeologists and other researchers to investigate the cave and its contents. The skeleton—affectionately dubbed Naia, after the water nymphs of Greek mythology—turned out to be one of the oldest ever found in the Americas, and the earliest one intact enough to provide a foundation for a facial reconstruction. Geneticists were even able to extract a sample of DNA.


Photograph by Timothy Archibald. Re-Creation: James Chatters, Applied Paleoscience; Tom McClelland.  Divers who discovered her bones named her Naia. A facial reconstruction reveals that the first Americans didn’t look much like later Native Americans, though genetic evidence confirms their common ancestry.

Together these remnants may help explain an enduring mystery about the peopling of the Americas: If Native Americans are descendants of Asian trailblazers who migrated into the Americas toward the end of the last ice age, why don’t they look like their ancient ancestors?

Read the entire article here.

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Naia Reborn: See the Surprising Face of a First American

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Mexico, Native Americans/First Nation on 2015-01-10 23:59Z by Steven

Naia Reborn: See the Surprising Face of a First American

NBC News
2015-01-05

Alan Boyle, Digital’s Science Editor


Timothy Archibald / National Geographic

Researchers and artists have reconstructed the face of a teenage girl who lived 12,000 years ago in Mexico, and it’s not the kind of face a person might typically associate with Native Americans.

The remains of the girl, nicknamed Naia (after the Greek term for a water nymph), were recovered from an underwater cave on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Naia is regarded as one of the earliest known residents of the Americas — but her skull has a shape associated with African or South Pacific populations rather than the typical Siberian look.

Despite that different look, researchers say Naia is genetically related to Native Americans who came to America later, from Siberia via the Beringia land bridge

Read the entire article here.

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