Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Racist American Eugenics Program: A Crime against Humanity

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Racist American Eugenics Program: A Crime against Humanity

Article excerpt


The story of the American eugenics program (or "good breeding" movement) has been a history of lies, deception, evasion, and racism. But the eugenics movement did happen. It was not some abstract idea, or theoretical measure. Quite obviously this sad story, riddled with complexities, is a burden for the descendents of eugenic stalwarts. I suspect that the descendents of eugenic activists do not like being reminded of their ancestors' terrible eugenic deeds, moral degradation and depredations, and the horrible things they inflicted upon the weak and powerless--like involuntary sterilization. Although the eugenicists "advocated compulsory sterilization for criminals, sex deviants, and the feebleminded," (1) many poor women were sterilized for the simple or flimsy reason as "being considered [too] lazy or [too] promiscuous." (2)

Take for example North Carolina's sterilization/eugenics program, which singled-out women--who never had it easy--on welfare. According to Journalist Rebecca Sinderbrand, "Over the last 15 years of its operation, 99 percent of the victims were women; [and] more than 60 percent were black" women. (3) It is crucial to remember that many of the black women, who were unknowingly sterilized, did not volunteer for these horrendous medical procedures. Indeed, these women were treated with utter disregard. More importantly, black women (or women of color) in America were unduly affected by the various eugenics programs.

In truth, racists and eugenic activists, and even governmental policymakers all wanted to jump on the sterilization band-wagon, and the eugenics floodgates opened. Many state officials and governments even adopted the curious habit of literally performing invasive operations on black women, Native American women, and poor white women for no good reason, and against their will, and without their knowledge, arguing that such people or ingrates deserved what they got, as it kept them from reproducing, or procreating; and bringing into the world defective children.

In certain respects, these awful eugenicists were totally engaged, relentless, and supported the racist and discriminatory idea of doing harm to less fortunate human beings, or those they called--and considered--mentally retarded, morons, relative idiots, the unfit, or deplorable persons. But what happened to the idea of caring for our most unfortunate citizens? There was certainly nothing humane about forced sterilization. Unfortunately, many of these American eugenicists found their way into positions of power that gave them access to public policy-making, and the wheels of government, which enabled them to influence and affect the establishment of eugenical programs in almost every state in the nation.

It is no exaggeration to say that even while these heartless eugenicists thought that what they were doing was righteous and noble--and would do the human race some good--it was actually an evil manifestation, a cursed plot, or conspiracy, and deliberate act to manipulate human evolution. But what gave them the absolute gumption to lead such a dehumanizing movement? Their obsequious orchestrations and emphasis on the importance of creating a better race of humans was, of course, nonsense, eugenical hucksterism. However, eugenical programs were created, nonetheless, and even "ruled constitutional in Buck v. Bell, a 1924 Supreme Court decision that is still the law of the land" in the United States. (4)

It is striking and supremely wrong that such an immoral piece of legislation still exists in American society today, even as some states like Georgia have introduced "a resolution apologizing for forced sterilization ... between 1937 and 1970," (5) where eugenicists denied some people their rights to life and liberty. So it seems almost unbelievable that our national eugenics program has not really disappeared.

Furthermore, over the years, the American eugenics program has been fraught with controversy, but extremely popular with members of the elite or dominant group (past and present); even the wealthiest, philanthropic American families, such as the financial support given by John D. …

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