Massive March for our Lives in the USA

Demonstrators gather in downtown Houston for a 'March for Our Lives' protest for gun legislation and school safety Saturday

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Monday, March 26, 2018

United States: Hundreds of thousands rally in support of tougher gun laws

HUNDREDS of thousands of schoolchildren and supporters rallied across the United States at the weekend to demand tougher gun laws.

The “March for Our Lives” events on Saturday drew massive crowds in cities across the country, marking the largest youth-led protests since the Vietnam war era.

In Washington DC, New York, Denver, Los Angeles and elsewhere, demonstrators heard from student survivors of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“If you listen real close, you can hear the people in power shaking”, Parkland survivor David Hogg said to roars from protesters packing Pennsylvania Avenue from a stage near the Capitol to a spot many blocks away towards the White House.

“We’re going to take this to every election, to every state and every city … Because this”, he said, pointing behind him to the Capitol dome, “is not cutting it.”

The message at the different rallies was consistent, with demonstrators vowing to vote out members of Congress who refuse to support gun controls.

Many rallies had tables where volunteers helped people register to vote while speakers detailed the policies they wanted and the effect gun violence has had on their lives.

The fire alarm at Trenton High School is scary, said 17-year-old Gabrielle James at a march in suburban Detroit.

“We don’t know if it’s an actual drill or if someone’s actually inside the school, going to take your life”, Ms James said at a march in Detroit.

She said government has “extremely failed” to protect students from gun violence and she wants restrictions on automatic weapons.

“I work extremely hard at my studies. Sometimes I just sit in my car before going to school, wondering if I’m going to be home to see my mother after school”, Ms James said.

Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King Jnr’s nine-year-old granddaughter, drew from the civil rights leader’s most famous words in declaring from the Washington DC stage: “I have a dream that enough is enough. That this should be a gun-free world. Period.”

While there were no official numbers, the Washington rally rivalled the women’s march last year that drew far more than the predicted 300,000.

WHAT HAPPENED TO TRUMP’S BUMP STOCK BAN? The administration said it intends to restrict access to the firearm attachment, but it’s unclear if or how that will happen. [HuffPost]

Tens of thousands protest mass shootings in New York, Michigan, Boston and the southern United States: here.

“This can be turned around by people who want to build a new society”. California: Protesters denounce war and social inequality: here.

Saturday’s March for Our Lives demonstrations mark a significant development in the growth of social opposition in the United States and internationally. In the midst of a wave of strikes and protests among teachers in the US, the UK, Africa and South America, as well as railroad workers in France, Uber drivers in India and Amazon workers in Spain, the mass demonstrations in the center of world imperialism are a sign of an intensification of social conflict worldwide. Just over a month after 17 people were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, broad anger over mass shootings and gun violence has triggered one of the largest mobilizations in US history. Well over 1 million people participated in more than 800 demonstrations in all 50 states and 390 of the country’s 435 congressional districts, plus several protests overseas. Protest organizers report that over 800,000 people attended the march in Washington, DC, far above their initial expectations and surpassing the size of the 2017 protest against President Donald Trump’s inauguration: here.

THE WORLD MARCHED FOR OUR LIVES, TOO There was strong international support Saturday for the gun control rallies in the U.S. [HuffPost]

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Members of a bipartisan U.S. House of Representatives task force on anti-Semitism condemned attacks on survivors of the Florida high school shooting in February, including anti-Semitic images and comparisons of the students to Nazis: here.

March for our Lives in Washington, D.C.

By Tom Hall in the USA:

Hundreds of thousands of students march against mass violence in America

25 March 2018

Hundreds of thousands of students demonstrated on Saturday in more than 800 March for Our Lives events throughout the United States and internationally. Demonstrations took place in every US state and on every continent except Antarctica.

An estimated 800,000 people marched in the main protest in Washington, DC, with crowds of people filling out the entire parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue. The second largest demonstration took place in New York City, where an estimated 150,000 people participated. Police estimated crowds of 40,000 and growing in Los Angeles early in the day. A crowd of 30,000 took part in the Chicago march, with thousands more in every other major US city. Demonstrations also took place in major international cities, such as London, Paris, Berlin, Sydney and Tokyo.

Student-led demonstrations of this size have not been seen in the United States since the mass demonstrations against the Vietnam War nearly fifty years ago. The scale of the demonstrations show that the profound crisis of American and world capitalism is working its way into the consciousness of young people and propelling a new generation into political struggle.

New York City

Young people who took part in the marches were looking for a political perspective that goes far beyond the narrow confines of the official debate over gun control. Students are seeking to make the connection between gun violence and the general social crisis in the United States and the violence of the American ruling class, from police killings at home to imperialist war abroad.

Los Angeles

This was shown by some of the speeches by high school students at the main march in Washington, DC. Edna Chavez, a student from the impoverished southern portion of Los Angeles, called for the “root causes” of gun violence to be addressed, advocating better job opportunities for graduating high school students and “changing the conditions that foster violence.” Edna gave a heartbreaking account of losing her brother, mother and sister to random gun violence, and said that shootings are a fact of life that her “community has become accustomed to” for decades.

Other students who spoke recounted shootings that have affected themselves and their loved ones. Eleven-year-old Naomi Wadler spoke about witnessing an assault at a convenience store that broke out when the man in front of her in line found he could not afford the food he was attempting to purchase.

Students spoke with contempt for President Donald Trump’s response to the Parkland shooting, particularly his call to arm teachers. One Parkland student sarcastically compared it to arming priests, rabbis and other community leaders.

… Young men and women of all races and nationalities, all of which have been impacted by mass school shootings, participated side by side in the protests.

The determined mood among students stood in marked contrast to the politics of the Democratic Party and the associated organizations that organized and led the demonstrations. The Democrats have no answer to the broader social crisis that manifests itself in outbursts of homicidal violence in schools and workplaces. This is because the Democrats are directly responsible for these conditions, having presided over a massive rise in social inequality and two full terms of war under Barack Obama. Instead, the Democrats are seeking to channel the opposition of students behind the narrower question of gun control and to promote it as an issue for them to run on in the midterm elections in November.

The Democrats were acutely aware of the gulf between themselves and the motivations of the student protesters and sought to conceal it as much as possible. Protest organizers sought to carefully restrict and vet the speakers lists in advance. While Democratic politicians were conspicuously absent from the speakers list in DC, Democratic officeholders spoke at other rallies throughout the country. This included Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who spoke at the Detroit march only days after voting with Republicans to abolish banking reforms enacted after the 2008 financial crash.

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality participated in the demonstrations throughout the country. The World Socialist Web Site provided live coverage, updates and interviews from the events on social media throughout the day.

Domenic and Susan in D.C.

Domenic, a high school sophomore, and his mother Susan, who is a nurse in a retirement facility, attended the DC rally.

“In the school district I was in last year, we faced budget cuts”, Domenic said. “I was in the orchestra as an artistic way of expressing myself. They always put that as the first thing to go. It was not removed in the end because I went and spoke for it. They also wanted to take out band and art. Without that type of activity at school, there’s no way for students to express themselves, which can lead to more and more depression and mental health issues. I’ve seen the scars on my friends’ wrists. But when they’re in orchestra, they’re the happiest people they can be.

“I think there needs to be some focus on the NRA [National Rifle Association], but we also need to focus on mental health and on schools. I also think there needs to be more of a balance. On a normal day you’ll see a guy lying right there on the ground, because he doesn’t have a home. You shouldn’t see someone without a home and someone else with pockets full of money.”

Nick in Chicago

Nick is an immigrant and high school student who attended the Chicago march. “Too many have died”, he said. “This is it, this is where we stand.”

Nick spoke out against the war-mongering in the media and among politicians against Russia, saying: “We have to stop fighting with Russia. We will never move into the 21st century unless America and Russia can see eye to eye and be the leaders that can unite this world together.”

Citing the opinion polls showing widespread interest among young people in socialism, the WSWS asked whether Nick and his friends had discussed the subject. “All my friends talk about it”, he responded. “They want this era of capitalism going into unnecessary wars to end.

“I mean, we went to Vietnam in 1968, and then in 2003 we went to Iraq. For what? For no reason? For oil? Students marched on Michigan Avenue in 1968, and 50 years later students are marching for the same things they did.

Monae and Atiti are seniors at Impact Academy in Oakland, California. “I thought [the march] was very powerful because I thought it made the connection between militarization, police brutality and global warfare and gun violence on the streets … and things like capitalism and money which funds [only] certain things”, Atiti said. “It all ties back to capitalism, and how everything is about greed.”

“I’m frustrated,” Monae said. “The fact that you’re putting war before our education? … It’s like you’re trying to take our power and make us more ignorant.”

Celia attended the Los Angeles demonstration with her friends Luna, Winnie and Helena. She linked the question of mass shootings to the glorification of violence and the military in the mass media. “If you mention sex, it’s automatically shunned. You hear things like, ‘You shouldn’t be talking about that, you’re so young.’ Yet we see literally everywhere guns and violence and murder and killing and all this, and it’s just normal for us. And it shouldn’t be, it really shouldn’t be.

“In the movies it’s just, ‘Well, we’re at war, and that’s normal.’… All the negative effects of violence and war aren’t seen very often.”

Paul, a 16-year-old junior from Warren, Michigan, attended the Detroit march. When an IYSSE member noted that he has lived his entire life under war, Paul responded: “That’s true. And I’ve been born to a century with these mass shootings too. I’ve never known what it’s like without these mass shootings. Columbine, I wasn’t even born, and then there was Sandy Hook, and I feel like Parkland, this one really hits close to me, because these students were my age.

“We’re not as happy as previous generations. Because all we see is death. We see war, we see death, we see shootings, that’s all we see. Congress was made to deal with these kind of [social issues]. That should be their number one priority, to make this generation have a better life than the previous one.”

Damon is a high school student who attended the march in New York City. “I think a lot of mainstream politics are not looking at the core of the issues”, he told IYSSE members. “I think a lot of the root causes go back to capitalism, and a lot of the issues like mass shootings can be prevented by socialism.”

By Tom Hall in Washington, D.C. in the USA today:

High school students and other youth who attended the rally had far more on their minds than gun control and the midterm elections—the issues promoted by the media and the Democratic Party. Many sought to connect the epidemic of mass shootings in American schools to broader issues, from the promotion of militarism and war, to poverty and social inequality. …

Many of those attending the rally are entering into political life for the first time and are searching for a political perspective. Opposition to war emerged as a dominant theme, although it found little expression in the official speeches and slogans.

Soriah, a high school student, said, “I think that being at war for so long has really taken a toll on citizens. We see a growing rate of police brutality as the police are becoming more militaristic with all of their assaults and killings. I think it has a lot to do with people not taking gun control seriously, and now it has expanded into a much bigger issue.”

Soriah connected the growing movement of high school students to the calls for strike action among teachers, in opposition to the starving of funds for public education. “We’ve seen teachers striking, I know West Virginia teachers went on strike, Oklahoma’s teachers are striking next week. It’s just become a big problem. Teachers aren’t paid enough, the schools aren’t funded enough. We give so much money to our military to do god-knows-what overseas. Money really just needs to stay here, especially for our schools.”

Jackie, a charter school teacher from Washington, DC, came to the march with fellow teachers Danielle and Yolanda. Jackie addressed the social roots of gun violence: “No one stopped the Parkland shooter, no one checked on him along the way; he didn’t have anyone checking on him even though there were so many signs.

“Instead of giving him tools to cope with his anger, you see he turned to a weapon as the way to solve his problems. What do they see? They see violence in video games, on television, they are desensitized to the fact that a gun will take someone’s life forever.”

Left to right Jackie, Danielle, Yolanda

When asked about the constant attacks on education and how teachers often bear the burden of coping with youth affected by the social crisis, Jackie said: “They want to give me a gun to disarm violent students, but you don’t give me the financial means to even live in the city where I work. I’m supposed to carry a gun and have responsibility for that as a part of my job? On top of calling parents when students are absent or being a child’s nurse when they become sick. We’re not even given the funding to have a nurse in our building certain days of the week, and for only certain hours of the day.”

When asked what she thought about the West Virginia teachers’ strike earlier this month, as well as the need to unite workers across the country and internationally against attacks on social spending, Jackie said, “We need to understand what brings us together more than what divides us. There are teachers in rural areas and urban areas and we all want the same things. We want to be equipped to teach our students.”

Deb is a therapist from Colorado who came to DC for the demonstration. “They’re taking more money from health care coverage. It’s BS. They can give all these tax cuts to wealthy people, but people who need the money the most, they take from, including food stamps. How much money are they giving the military? Just Trump’s military parade could fund so much.

“This is not just about guns. It’s about quality of life. Access to mental health treatment. Help for those who need it. The majority of school shootings and stabbings occur from students with prior mental health issues.”

Kiresten (left) and Emily

Kiresten, 20, and Emily, 21, are young workers from Virginia Beach. Kiresten works in sales, and Emily is a machine operator.

Kiresten said, “I don’t think it’s just about guns. I think there are other issues we need to talk about like mental health. … I don’t agree with a lot of these wars. I don’t agree with going into a country because you want territory. Everything that society does, seeing the wars and everybody getting bombed, that’s a big issue. If that’s how our own president is handling things, [people think] maybe that’s how I’ll handle it too.

“I don’t agree with the rich doing whatever they want and getting away with it. If I don’t pay a parking ticket, I’ll go to jail. I feel like if they had more jobs, more outreach programs, especially for kids when they’re younger… they have recreational centers— if they did more of that, it would help kids actually look forward to something. There should be more money going into jobs. Our priorities are just not straight.”


Rocco is a high school student from Washington, DC: “There are many changes that are needed in this country right now. I have grown up knowing that I have been at war for most of my life. Our future generation should not be growing up accustomed to warfare. If we really want to achieve world peace, our immediate solutions should not be going to war and taking the lives of others.”

When asked what he thought about the Democratic Party, Rocco said: “The Democrats are just as power-hungry as the Republicans. I think socialism is a better way of living in society. I think it is the ideal way of living. I would be in favor of youth and workers standing up against the current system, and changes need to happen now before things get worse in our political climate. Being at this event makes me more hopeful for the future, and it makes me more excited and motivated to make that change for our future generations.”

A section of the March for Our Lives protest in Chicago

By the International Youth and Students for Social Equality at the University of Illinois at Chicago, 26 March 2018:

Over 80,000 youth and students in Chicago protest against mass violence

The WSWS is posting a series of reports this week from the March 24 demonstrations against school violence. This report is from Chicago, Illinois.

Over 80,000 students and supporters descended upon Union Park in Chicago on Saturday to participate in the nationally coordinated March for Our Lives demonstrations against mass violence in the United States. It was one of the largest protests by young people and students in the city since the anti-war protests against the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. …

There was a strong response to the chant initiated by IYSSE members: “No more wars, no more violence!”

Percy, a high school student who considers herself a socialist, said: “I think violence is inherently profitable for the American government. Violence is itself an extension of capitalism and is profitable to the top 1 percent. Disseminating weapons, which is the function of the NRA [National Rifle Association], contributes to violence overseas and domestically. It sows discord and class warfare and struggle, which does not have to exist. It goes to the root of capitalism.

“The function of both the parties is to follow the money”, Percy added. “The idea that we need gradual reform is not an idea that can exist with the significant need for immediate and drastic reforms. The Democrats and Republicans are not listening to the constituents. The power of the people is eventually the power that will need to replace government structures that are not working. Workers of the world, unite!”

“I’m here to protest gun violence and school shootings,” said Christine, a high school student at the rally. “This government is corrupt, and we need to make a change. For our future and our future generations. And we are the future. Inequality and violence go hand in hand. If we don’t have equality, then we won’t have change, and we won’t have a better future. It’s crazy how people wake up in this country and fear walking down the street. Teenagers need to be more involved, and that’s why we are all here.”

Sharmaine, an English undergraduate student at UIC, came out to support the high school protests. She spoke about the connection between mass violence and US militarism: “I think the government spends more money on military power and violence abroad and does nothing to invest in the population. None of our needs are prioritized. I think it goes to the nature of capitalism, which isn’t working for most of us.”

Sharmaine, Erik and Sidney

“I feel unnoticed, you know what I mean? Our opinions and lives don’t matter”, commented high school student Cameron on the mass violence affecting youth. “I think instead of killing people in the Middle East, we should fix the problems we have in America. No kid should go to school in fear of being shot. That’s just wrong. It’s not right. We should focus on the battle in America. The politicians are only worried about what’s happening out there [in the Middle East] because of money. The rich want to stay rich. That’s how it is.”

“This is too strong of an issue and it’s been ignored for too long,” said Monica, who works in health care. “We have to start with the basics, and that is the lives of our people. It’s not just the school shootings; it’s suicides, it’s kids getting in trouble, it’s all those things put together. Corruption, greed, poverty are some of the worst things we have. It just has to change.”

Monica said her husband has multiple sclerosis, and that they and their two children live paycheck to paycheck because of huge medical bills. “And of course I’m not alone. Whether it’s health issues, a child that needs rehab, a job loss, any of those things can set someone on the path to ruin very quickly, and there aren’t the safety nets out there that there used to be.”

Asked about social inequality in relation to social problems, she said: “Of course it plays a big role! We all hear about it, those of us who are aware and watch, how much inequality is growing all around the world.

“Parents, children and teachers are the future of our society. You can’t muck with that, and they’re mucking with it way too much, so now is the time that everyone should come out here and protest. This is the start. It’s very important.”

When asked if she had followed the strike of West Virginia teachers, Monica replied: “Oh absolutely! And thank God they finally got some crumbs over there, and what kind of struggle did they have to do to get them. I just hope that power will eventually go back to the hands of the people. Somehow people have to find their voice.”

Dave, a public school teacher, and Sarah attended the march with their family. Dave said: “I don’t think that I should have to carry a gun in my classroom. I think that the fact that this keeps happening shows that there is a profound lack of will in our country to address this. Like my sign says, this isn’t the 18th century, this is the 21st century. The fact that I have to carry a trauma kit in my classroom is wrong. When money trumps lives, that’s wrong, and that’s why I’m here. If we don’t say something, then who will? If not now, when?”

A World Socialist Web Site reporter spoke about how the issues of escalating violence are bound up with inequality and the shifts in the ruling class toward militarism and war. The West Virginia teachers strike was mentioned to illustrate the mass opposition to inequality that exists in the working class.

Dave said: “The teachers only make $35,000 per year! It is impossible to live on that.”

Sarah added: “And they buy all the supplies for their students, too. They take everything from education.”

Dave continued: “The next time I hear anyone say, ‘Well, we can’t have class warfare’, well, class warfare has existed for a long time, we’ve just been on the losing side. The fact that Jeff Bezos can walk around making $97 billion dollars while people that work for Amazon are making minimum wage is just wrong.”

Sarah said: “I’m so mad that J.B. Pritzker has won the vote for governor [in the Democratic Party primaries]. Another billionaire, just sucking up money! It’s not right. He’s not going to give us what we need.”

Shannon, a school social worker, said: “Since the Parkland shooting, we have had a lot of blackout drills and practices. As someone who works at a school and cares a lot about kids’ mental health, I want to make sure that this does not happen at any other school. There is enough money for mental health, it’s just not being spent the right way.”

Olivia holding up her sign

Olivia, a high school student, brought signs to the march depicting text messages that students sent during school shootings.

She expressed hostility to the ruling class after discussing inequality and how it causes violence in society. “I feel that they need to replace them with someone who really listens to what we are saying and wants to make a change”, she said. “I don’t like nationalism. I don’t like the idea of America First, because I don’t think America should be first in everything.”

Nelson, a high school student, said: “In retrospect, what hit me was that after I heard about the Parkland shooting, I wasn’t really surprised. This kind of thing happens so often across America. I was disgusted, but it did not surprise me.

“Republicans and Democrats alike are responsible for this”, he continued. “I despise nationalism. It’s probably one of the main reasons why we have war.”

In addition to the teachers, students and parents in attendance, many physicians attended the rally in their coats and ID badges, carrying signs about the impact of gun violence.

Marian spoke with the WSWS: “I’m a family medicine physician at UIC. On a daily basis I work with a lot of underserved populations, and on a daily basis I see the effects of gun violence with my patients. These range from PTSD, to depression, to problems with family instability that come along with high rates of injury and death.

Marian, Evelyn and Alex

“I have patients who are afraid to walk outside because they’re afraid they’ll get shot.

“Coming from somewhat more privileged background, I don’t think I realized the effects of it, but I have children who tell me they can’t play outside because they might get shot. This is our reality. There needs to be much greater awareness, and we need to effect change.

“It’s interesting you’re asking about the gun violence in relationship to the wars. … I’m Iraqi. I left before the Gulf War really devastated the country, but I know many people in Iraq still. It is striking how similar some of the experiences my patients have here are to those that live in refugee camps, based on stories I have heard. I have not been back, but from what I know it is similar. It’s quite amazing to think we live in a country where people should feel safe and protected … but they don’t and they’re not. It’s very interesting to think of this in relationship to the destruction and chaos that’s been created in the wars.”

Big March for our Lives in the USA

This 25 March 2018 video is called ‘March For Our Lives‘ Brought Thousands To The Street.

This movement against gun violence was started by students in Florida after a white supremacist massacred people at a high school.

United States Koch brothers making dissent illegal

This video from the USA says about itself:

Kochs and ALEC Behind Criminalization of Dissent Bills in Five States

17 March 2018

Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota and Louisiana have introduced or passed legislation to criminalize environmental dissent. There is evidence that bill mill organizations such as ALEC and the bipartisan group Council of State Governments (CSG) had their hand in shaping these bills says investigative journalist Steve Horne.

National Geographic about its racist history

This video from the USA (showing, eg, German nazi SS and Italian fascist symbols on right-wing demonstrators’ shields) says about itself:

See the Sparks That Set Off Violence in Charlottesville | National Geographic

19 August 2017

Warning: This video contains profanity and disturbing scenes from the Charlottesville, Va. demonstration on August 12, 2017. It also includes footage of James Fields, Jr., who has been charged with second-degree murder in an attack that day.

From National Geographic in the USA:

In a full-issue article on Australia that ran in 1916, Aboriginal Australians were called “savages” who “rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.”

For Our Members: The Race Issue

For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It

We asked a preeminent historian to investigate our coverage of people of color in the U.S. and abroad. Here’s what he found.

By Susan Goldberg, Editor in Chief

This story is part of The Race Issue, a special issue of National Geographic that explores how race defines, separates, and unites us. Tell us your story with #IDefineMe.

National Geographic April 2018 issue

It is November 2, 1930, and National Geographic has sent a reporter and a photographer to cover a magnificent occasion: the crowning of Haile Selassie, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah. There are trumpets, incense, priests, spear-wielding warriors. The story runs 14,000 words, with 83 images.

If a ceremony in 1930 honoring a black man had taken place in America, instead of Ethiopia, you can pretty much guarantee there wouldn’t have been a story at all. Even worse, if Haile Selassie had lived in the United States, he would almost certainly have been denied entry to our lectures in segregated Washington, D.C., and he might not have been allowed to be a National Geographic member. According to Robert M. Poole, who wrote Explorers House: National Geographic and the World It Made, “African Americans were excluded from membership—at least in Washington—through the 1940s.”

This story helps launch a series about racial, ethnic, and religious groups and their changing roles in 21st-century life. The series runs through 2018 and will include coverage of Muslims, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.

In 1941 National Geographic used a slavery-era slur to describe California cotton workers waiting to load a ship in California: “Pickaninny, banjos, and bales are like those you might see at New Orleans.”

“Cards and clay pipes amuse guests in Fairfax House’s 18th-century parlor”, reads the caption in a 1956 article on Virginia history. Although slave labor built homes featured in the article, the writer contended that they “stand for a chapter of this country’s history every American is proud to remember.”

I’m the tenth editor of National Geographic since its founding in 1888. I’m the first woman and the first Jewish person—a member of two groups that also once faced discrimination here. It hurts to share the appalling stories from the magazine’s past. But when we decided to devote our April magazine to the topic of race, we thought we should examine our own history before turning our reportorial gaze to others.

Race is not a biological construct, as writer Elizabeth Kolbert explains in this issue, but a social one that can have devastating effects. “So many of the horrors of the past few centuries can be traced to the idea that one race is inferior to another,” she writes. “Racial distinctions continue to shape our politics, our neighborhoods, and our sense of self.”

How we present race matters. I hear from readers that National Geographic provided their first look at the world. Our explorers, scientists, photographers, and writers have taken people to places they’d never even imagined; it’s a tradition that still drives our coverage and of which we’re rightly proud. And it means we have a duty, in every story, to present accurate and authentic depictions—a duty heightened when we cover fraught issues such as race.

We asked John Edwin Mason to help with this examination. Mason is well positioned for the task: He’s a University of Virginia professor specializing in the history of photography and the history of Africa, a frequent crossroads of our storytelling. He dived into our archives.

What Mason found in short was 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.

Unlike magazines such as Life, Mason said, National Geographic did little to push its readers beyond the stereotypes ingrained in white American culture.

“Americans got ideas about the world from Tarzan movies and crude racist caricatures”, he said. “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.”

Some of what you find in our archives leaves you speechless, like a 1916 story about Australia. Underneath photos of two Aboriginal people, the caption reads: “South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.”

Questions arise not just from what’s in the magazine, but what isn’t. Mason compared two stories we did about South Africa, one in 1962, the other in 1977. The 1962 story was printed two and a half years after the massacre of 69 black South Africans by police in Sharpeville, many shot in the back as they fled. The brutality of the killings shocked the world.

National Geographic’s story barely mentions any problems”, Mason said. “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.”

Contrast that with the piece in 1977, in the wake of the U.S. civil rights era: “It’s not a perfect article, but it acknowledges the oppression”, Mason said. “Black people are pictured. Opposition leaders are pictured. It’s a very different article.”

Fast-forward to a 2015 story about Haiti, when we gave cameras to young Haitians and asked them to document the reality of their world. “The images by Haitians are really, really important,” Mason said, and would have been “unthinkable” in our past. So would our coverage now of ethnic and religious conflicts, evolving gender norms, the realities of today’s Africa, and much more. …

“If I were talking to my students about the period until after the 1960s, I would say, ‘Be cautious about what you think you are learning here’”, he said. “At the same time, you acknowledge the strengths National Geographic had even in this period, to take people out into the world to see things we’ve never seen before. It’s possible to say that a magazine can open people’s eyes at the same time it closes them.”

April 4 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s a worthy moment to step back, to take stock of where we are on race. It’s also a conversation that is changing in real time: In two years, for the first time in U.S. history, less than half the children in the nation will be white. So let’s talk about what’s working when it comes to race, and what isn’t. Let’s examine why we continue to segregate along racial lines and how we can build inclusive communities. Let’s confront today’s shameful use of racism as a political strategy and prove we are better than this.

For us this issue also provided an important opportunity to look at our own efforts to illuminate the human journey, a core part of our mission for 130 years. I want a future editor of National Geographic to look back at our coverage with pride—not only about the stories we decided to tell and how we told them but about the diverse group of writers, editors, and photographers behind the work.

We hope you will join us in this exploration of race, beginning this month and continuing throughout the year. Sometimes these stories, like parts of our own history, are not easy to read. But as Michele Norris writes in this issue, “It’s hard for an individual—or a country—to evolve past discomfort if the source of the anxiety is only discussed in hushed tones.”