Shame on Us
EUGENICS: noun; plural but singular in construe \yü-ˈje-niks\
A science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or breed
Merriam Webster Dictionary
I’m always blown away by atrocities that have taken place on our soil in my lifetime. For some reason, I want to think that we are above barbaric actions. Don’t we value the civil rights of all human beings? Don’t we look down on countries that deny their citizens the very basic of human needs: food, shelter and the right to free speech? I guess we didn’t for three decades in the twentieth century.
According to a story on NPR, North Carolina is considering compensating people they sterilized against their will 40 years ago. From 1933 till the early 1970s, more than half of the states had what were called eugenics laws that made it legal for states to sterilize people against their will. In North Carolina alone, 7,600 men, women and children were sterilized. We’ve probably all heard terrible tales of people in mental institutions or prisons being sterilized, but with these laws people were singled out if they were poor, uneducated, on welfare, or a little too far out there mentally. For some states, it was a way to keep welfare costs under control.
Jim R. Bounds/AP
Elaine Riddick sits with her son, Tony Riddick, at a hearing before a state panel in Raleigh, N.C..
Listen to the broadcast and it will break your heart to hear the voices of these women tell their stories. These are women just like you and I who were born into poverty, didn’t have the love and caring of a family, the gift of an education and, in so many cases, skin that wasn’t white. In these cases, I don’t think it was racial discrimination: if you were poor, the color of your skin didn’t make a difference.
In retrospect, I guess it’s a sign that we have learned from our mistakes and that we are smarter now than we were then; that there is some solace in saying we’re sorry and we hope that handing out money will in some way wipe the sin from our history. Personally, I wish I could put my arms around those individuals who were so unbelievably wronged and tell them how saddened I am that my fellow humans would do something so despicable. I like to keep thinking that today we’re above that.
We’ll talk next week.