The NYT had a front page story today about the price still being paid for eugenic sterilizations, that in North Carolina’s case, extended into the 1970s! Making NC’s program even more frightening was that social workers were empowered to make the decision as to who should never be allowed to procreate. From the story:
The board operated from 1933 to 1977 as an experiment in genetic engineering once considered a legitimate way to keep welfare rolls small, stop poverty and improve the gene pool. Thirty-one other states had eugenics programs. Virginia and California each sterilized more people than North Carolina. But no program was more aggressive. Only North Carolina gave social workers the power to designate people for sterilization.
Eugenics reached its high tide in most states in the 1920s-30s, and for the most part, the movement went into several decade hibernation after the Holocaust. (Alas, the human stock perfection madness has revived with the rise of transhumanism, IVF consumerism, eugenic abortion, and the drive toward human genetic enhancement.) But NC went into overdrive after the War!
Over all, about 70 percent of the North Carolina operations took place after 1945, and many of them were on poor young women and racial minorities. Nonwhite minorities made up about 40 percent of those sterilized, and girls and women about 85 percent. The program, while not specifically devised to target racial minorities, affected black Americans disproportionately because they were more often poor and uneducated and from large rural families.
Of course, it was all legal because the U.S. Supreme Court had approved of involuntary sterilization in one of the most infamous decisions in American history, Buck v. Bell, 1927—8-1, in which Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes infamously proclaimed, “Three generations of imbeciles is enough,” placing him in the same villainous company as Dred Scott’s, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney. And now, NC will have to pay reparations to the surviving victims—as well it should. But money is poor compensence for a society that legally maimed you in the name of pseudo science.
The bigger picture here is that we err badly and lurch toward the potential for great evil whenever we abandon human exceptionalism. Also, we should never give government bureaucrats carte blanche to unilaterally implement the “scientific” agenda du jour. Good rarely comes of it.