Race in “Ranger Rick” Magazine

Written by Love Isn’t Enough Guest Contributor Jennifer Holladay; Originally published at Jennifer Holladay

To say my daughter has an interest in animals is an understatement. She sleeps with her “Doggy” under a zebra-print bedspread, and toys, books and magazines about animals are her primary possessions. When the National Wildlife Federation’s “Ranger Rick” magazine arrives in the mail each month (a gift from her Grammy and Pop), homework takes a back seat until it has been thoroughly read, shared and discussed. “Mama Jen, did you know Amazon dolphins don’t have any enemies? Mama Jen, did you know … ? Mama Jen, did you know … ? Mama Jen, pay attention!!”

“Ranger Rick” is something she loves, and loves to share with me. The February 2011 issue is promoted as a “Special Valentine Issue!” — but that alone doesn’t explain all of the pinkish tones that fill the magazine’s pages this month.

The February edition features an abundance of white people — both real-life human beings whom the editors chose to spotlight, and illustrated characters who appear in feature stories and departments. Indeed, the only place where images of people (and children) of color appear is in a feature story about eating bugs — an exotic (eeewwwwwwww!) activity undertaken primarily by brown people in exotic lands like Papua New Guinea, South Africa and Indonesia. (Only one image in the entire bug-eating feature portrays white people.)

White children and adults, meanwhile, are positioned elsewhere as:

  • Thoughtful letter writers
  • Award winners
  • Adventurers who picnic — even in the snow!
  • Allies to animals
  • Active creators of home-made recycled paper

Other illustrations that “humanize” animals — and even a piece of paper (see above) — opt too, for the pinkish skin tones of white people.

Maybe I’m being hypersensitive. But, really, is it too much to expect of the editors of “the leading nature magazine for kids aged 7 and up” that they be mindful, in each and every issue, of the reality that their readers are diverse? Is it too much to expect of these editors that they purposefully examine their editorial and design choices to ensure that hurtful messages about race don’t unintentionally reveal themselves in the pages of a magazine my daughter cherishes?


See images from the February 2011 issue of “Ranger Rick” here:  http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/sharing/shareRedirectSwitchBoard.jsp?token=787062421215%3A1796305031&sourceId=533754321803&cm_mmc=eMail-_-Share-_-Photos-_-Sharee

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