National Geographic calls itself to task for its racist past


Je peut demander en francais aussi si tu le prefere. But I wasn’t aware that speaking english was an act of racism…


If you infer anything about me because of the colour of my skin then you are the racist. and fortunately in this world we are only responsible for our own actions, not those of others.


It’s a slippery thing: until you out yourself as white, the internet doesn’t know. But if you’re defending your whiteness then yeah, that sounds like you’re actively trying to maintain a racist system.

I do this myself all the time, someone of color will express frustration with white people, and I’m all defensive about it, and try to remind them #notallwhitepeople and then l’ll cool off and realize I just did it again. There’s no way to win this game. And only the most privileged of us get to pretend we are no longer playing.


Assuming that you are white (as seems likely from your posts), I can infer from the colour of your skin that you are a person who benefits from the historic and current existence of global white domination. Western industrial capitalist society is built upon a foundation of racist exploitation.

That isn’t a thing that you need to actively choose to benefit from; it’s just the background context of the world you were born in, and applies to all white people whether they like it or not.

You can, however, choose to work to alter that context.


It should be noted that a lot of racism is confused for sheer domination. There are many groups of people of all ethnicities/cultures/etc. who have been utterly dominated by another ethnicity/culture/etc. It would be folly to then suggest those individuals in those groups who dominated should then see themselves and/or describe themselves as equals. Of course they are going to feel superior. If Africans had shipped whites from America to use them as slaves, you can best believe they would think the white man was inferior and would have constantly mocked him as such. Only as a conservative, morally-constrained society improves through freedom, education, and economic prosperity can there be an appreciation - and thus a respect and equal review - of all ethnicities and cultures. However, to fully experience such an arrangement and maintain its prominence, all must assimilate to the culture of the nation state (in this particular case: America). You can avail yourself to your cultural background while still embracing and saluting the country’s unity. Only then can the country survive and thrive in peace and safety.


There’s a key difference between what you’re arguing and the usual black/left analysis of racism.

You seem to be framing racism as a cognitive mistake, and arguing that racism will disappear if people are led away from that error.

The alternative perspective is to see racism as a function of power relationships, fundamentally shaping the structure of society. It isn’t about individual attitudes, it is about global systems of power and exploitation.

That isn’t really how it works. History shows that the definition of whiteness is extremely flexible, and expands or contracts as necessary in order to maintain white dominance.

White supremacy cannot be defeated by ignoring it, or hoping for people to naturally evolve past it. It needs to be fought.

These two Twitter threads are of relevance:



Can you find anything in what I wrote that suggests that we ignore racism? What I wrote is that we need to consciously begin using other categories to describe other people and ourselves, and consciously stop using racial categories whenever possible.

One category which will be with us for a long time is “racist” - because, while the concept of race is made up, and has no basis in biology (and is certainly not logical), the belief in race, racism, is very real, and some people cling to it.

If, as Ms Newsome says, racism is a power structure, then stepping outside of that structure and building an alternate structure or set of structures is a good way to get rid of racism and its dynamics. And reducing the size of the category of people who are racist will be a good thing - if we work hard enough at it, it will be reduced to a trivial group with no power.


But that is only a few hundred years of history. Race was invented fairly recently. The phrase “white people” did not exist before the 1600s, and the theory of race has changed repeatedly as it wound it’s way through European-based cultures since then.

We can extricate ourselves from race and from racism. It will not be easy, but it can be done.


No. It will be an orange edition.


Race is not a biological construct

Can we retire this nonsense? What we deem race is in fact due to biology.


It’s so hard to have these discussions with an attitude of “yes, and…”, rather than the more common “yes, but…”

Where anything I say that’s different from what you said is construed as a rebuttal. So yeah, that’s a thing I’m trying to avoid.

The power relationship that racism features in, is pretty flexible in how it defines in-groups and out-groups. In Atlanta in the 90’s, I saw plenty of black men in business suits carrying briefcases, and if that’s the only direction I looked, it might not seem so bad. But then I noticed that all the burger clerks, janitors, maids - any position one might consider undesirable-they were always held by people of color.

And racism is only one gradient among many. It can operate in tandem with sexism, but it can operate independently. Throw in hetero normative bias, trans phobia, religious intolerance - and they can all function independently or in series… And yet it’s all the same power structure.

Calling it a patriarchy seems to satisfy some feminists, but Empire works just as well for a Marxist observer.

My point is, there is plenty to dislike about the power structure that doesn’t need to be related to race in order to oppose.

Or in more practical terms: I don’t know how to make police be less racist in their thinking, but I think I know how to make them more accountable to the public.


Wow. That’s quite…a sentence you have there.


As I’ve argued here before: race, class and gender [1] are the key axes of oppression, and they’re all interlinked.

Western imperial capitalism is based upon patriarchy, white supremacy and class exploitation. You can’t really fix any of it unless you fix all of it.

That’s a key part of my argument: it isn’t about hearts and minds, it’s about power. You can’t force people to be good, but you can limit their ability to do harm. White supremacy won’t be overthrown by persuasion or education; it will be overthrown when PoC are sufficiently empowered to successfully resist.

Colonialism and slavery didn’t recede because the West became civilised; they receded because the global south got enough firepower to effectively fight back.

[1] I include hetero-normativity within gender, and see religious bigotry as a subset of racism.


In the 1970’s, Greek-Australians were not “white”. Now they are.

What changed in their biology?


Thanks boingboing commenters, particularly:


This thread is exactly why I come here - I have been schooled!

I was sidetracked today by ancestry stuff online and found myself scanning through a Reddit AMA by Manolis Dermitzakis, Professor of Genetics at the University of Geneva.

At one point he claimed:

“There are no races but individuals that sometimes are more related to each than others. If you see it that way then all data will make more sense. Thinking of races is not only ethically wrong but against the data that we have.”

You make it sound like there’s more to know here.
Maybe I can be schooled further?


I’d say what we deem race is in fact based on slight biological difference; it’s falsely extrapolated from it.

We’ve perceived difference in skin color, especially, and then constructed and assumed all sorts of supposed interior, inherent differences on the basis of that superficial difference.

In particular, and most egregiously, so-called white people have long constructed and assumed their own inherent superiority in most respects over other races. This belief has long justified their group’s abuse of and theft from other so-called races.

Of course, if white people actually were so much smarter than others, then surely they could see that the elasticity of the very concept of whiteness (which Wanderfound pointed out) demonstrates the ficitionality of the identity that many of them hold so dear.


This is just values stifling on the part of conswervatives who find values anathema. And who are creepily obsessed with Single Jewish Women.


Can you look at a person or at a group of people and guess that they are Indian (from India), Chinese, Korean, Japanese, African, African-American, Arab, “Caucasian” (or whatever you want to call white)? Most people can. Maybe you can’t guess down to the country, but at least the continent or sub-continent. The reason you can guess this is their facial features. Guess where those come from? Their alleles (DNA).

The groups to which you assign them in your head correspond generally to the groups you’d get from analyzing their data. When you examine HapMap SNP data and you cluster individuals based on their alleles, you invariably recover the input groups.

Kellis is repeating the same nonsense as other academics. As for his scientific credibility, read this:

(A well-respected academic, Lior Pachter, calls his work fraudulent.)


we deem race is in fact based on slight biological difference

Thank you for repeating my point. Those differences may be slight, but they’re consistent, and they allow you to cluster individuals in a way that corresponds to their facial appearance. Take a look at any HapMap paper and the clusters are obvious. History, racism, extrapolation etc. based on race do not make these facts disappear, and they don’t justify lying.


Okay, and . . . ? Or another way to put it: so what?

Differences in skin color are often consistent too.

I dont see what you’re getting at.