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New Republic dedicates entire issue to denouncing itself for past racism

New Republic Magazine is conducting a re-branding campaign with a largely all new staff. Part of their re-branding is to denounce the magazine’s “racist” past. Such horrible “racist” sins include publishing excerpts from the Bell Curve, and having too few black editorial staff members.


The forthcoming issue of The New Republic — its first since a mass staff shakeup in December — features a cover story by Canadian journalist Jeet Heer about the magazine’s “perceived legacy of racism.”

The 4,000-word article, which was obtained by POLITICO last week, comes in the wake of severe criticism about the magazine’s history of racism, including an essay by The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates that accused the century-old magazine of ignoring or dismissing blacks.

“How do we reconcile the magazine’s liberalism, the ideology that animated the Civil Rights revolution, with the fact that many black readers have long seen — and still see — the magazine as inimical and at times outright hostile to their concerns?” Heer writes in his piece.

“How could a magazine which published much excellent on-the-ground reporting on the unforgivable sins visited upon black America by white America— lynchings, legal frame-ups, political disenfranchisement and more—also give credence to toxic and damaging racial theorizing, as recently as the 1990’s?” Heer continues. “And why has The New Republic had only a handful of black editorial staff members in over a hundred years?”

“The New Republic owes an accounting to itself, its critics and its readers; an honest reckoning on where it has gone wrong is the necessary first step to figuring out how to do better,” he writes. “How can this magazine — or any legacy institution — come to terms with a blighted legacy on race and transcend it?”

In early December, around the time The New Republic was enduring a mass staff exodus precipitated by the owner’s decision to rebrand the magazine, Coates wrote an essay arguing that blacks had been ignored or dismssed by The New Republic throughout its history.

“For most of its modern history, TNR has been an entirely white publication, which published stories confirming white people’s worst instincts,” Coates wrote. “During the culture wars of the ’80s and ’90s, TNR regarded black people with an attitude ranging from removed disregard to blatant bigotry.”

Heer’s cover essay addresses the issues raised by Coates’ piece head-on, though it does not mention the Atlantic author by name. Heer goes through the magazine’s entire history, starting with the 1910s, when TNR’s worldview was “filtered through the magazine’s privileged white writers,” and the Harlem Renaissance, when TNR’s move “toward a more rigorous accounting of racial injustice” was nevertheless “punctuated by a jarring insouciance, particularly in the work of white writers.”