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12 Responses

  1. Kristin
    Kristin December 22, 2008 at 8:43 pm |

    Oh, wow… I got goosebumps when I read this. I grew up in North Carolina during the latter Jesse Helms years, and while you’re right that this can’t undo anything, it’s certainly an important step–and one that I never thought would happen during my life time. Of course, I’m 28 years old, and I never thought I’d live to see the state go Blue in a Presidential race either. That something like reparations is out on the table at all suggests a substantial political shift… And while it can’t change the past and I’m not sure how to quantify anything like forced sterilization (While $20,000 does not seem like enough, I’m not sure that any sum could really… well, be enough to “compensate” for that kind of violation.)…. Well, in any case, it’s good news.

    Tomorrow, I’m heading down there for the holidays, and I look forward to hearing what people are saying about its chances. It’s hard to follow NC politics from so far away, but yeah… I hope it passes too. (That NC is also suffering the fall-out from the financial crisis makes me a little pessimistic, but yeah, I hope it passes.)

    Also, just a note: A vast number of North Carolinians who were forcibly sterilized were women who had psychological and/or cognitive disabilities (I’m not sure what “mental disabilities” means.). Throughout the South, both women of color and women with disabilities were major targets of this practice. A number of false diagnoses were issued in order to justify sterilizations based on non-racialized justifications. While some of the women were, in fact, disabled, many were diagnosed as such in order for doctors to maintain job security.

    Most of these eugenics programs, based on what I know, made sterilization legal for women with certain disabilities. It was not (especially in its later incarnations) legal based on race, so there were a number of illegal sterilizations (in NC, against both Black and Cherokee women specifically) that were performed in the course of some other medical treatment. When the eugenics program was codified in law, disability was often proffered as the justification when the real aim was to sterilize the Black and Cherokee populations.

    The fantastic Ladelle McWhorter is coming out with a book on this topic in early 2009 called Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America: A Genealogy (not just about NC, but about the larger US history). I heard her give a talk about it over the summer, and it sounds like it’s going to be fantastic.

  2. Kristin
    Kristin December 22, 2008 at 9:08 pm |

    Also, it is kind of cool–and unexpected–to see my hometown TV station linked on feministe.

  3. MomTFH
    MomTFH December 22, 2008 at 10:31 pm |

    This is very important, symbolically. I don’t think this possibility is a figment of another era. I am in medical school. In a journal club meeting, a student said that he thought poor women should be “sterilized for their own good”. I have also heard other future doctors say that people should be given IQ tests before they are allowed to have children.

  4. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe December 23, 2008 at 12:57 am |

    Illinois was the first state to offer a eugenics program in 1907 as social reformers advocated for a way to cleanse society of the mentally handicapped and mentally ill.

    Yay! Another milestone for my state!

    Not only are we tops in high-level corruption, we also took the lead in atrocities perpetrated on poor black women. Who’da thunk it?

  5. Cinnamon
    Cinnamon December 23, 2008 at 2:15 am |

    Yay for Illinois. Oy! I’d heard this but had forgotten. Thanks for the reminder. And while I’m sure poor black women were affected by this, it was primarily targeted at poor Irish, Italian, and Eastern European women who were mostly immigrants. Poor and undesirable were the binding characteristics, didn’t matter your skin color, as much as it did your income level.

  6. jonk
    jonk December 23, 2008 at 9:25 am |

    The history of forced sterilizations eugenics is one that’s highly important to modern understandings of mass schooling

  7. Kristin
    Kristin December 23, 2008 at 10:42 am |

    MomTFH: Yeah, this is a huge trend all over the sciences right now. This is why critical science studies are so important right now.

  8. Rosalux
    Rosalux December 23, 2008 at 2:36 pm |

    I think the best part of any discussion of reparations is that it puts into the public record and consciousness that these practices existed.

    I have run into more people who simply do not believe forced sterilizations ever occurred, or if they did that they were all over the country, or that even if they were done all over the country it was a race or class issue and not “just” eugenics against people with mental retardation.

  9. posey
    posey December 23, 2008 at 3:27 pm |

    I wish the US Government offer reparations to all the Puerto Rican Women who they sterilized over the years. I am not even sure many people are aware of the massive sterilization that occur in Puerto Rico.
    …There are a number of examples in post Civil War America of eugenic programs but none as effective and widespread as the mass female sterilization in Puerto Rico. Beginning in the years following WW I, a program was initiated by the United States government, the medical community and the local government of Puerto Rico, to name a few, which resulted in the unprecedented sterilization of 1/3 of the female population by 1965, and the continued use of sterilization on a broad scale by Puerto Rican women as a form of birth control (Presser 1980)…

    By 1980, Puerto Rico had the HIGHEST incidence of female sterilization in the world.

  10. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe December 23, 2008 at 9:16 pm |

    ONE-THIRD of Puerto Rico women were sterilized in the 1960s?


    Columbus and his minions, IIRC, wiped out an indigenous race on Puerto Rico, through slaughter and disease, so thoroughly that no trace of them remains. I guess we were going for Round 2.

  11. Five Links That Are Actually Important, 1/1/09 « Our Descent Into Madness

    […] Panel recommends reparations for people forcibly sterilized under state eugenics programs. Horrifyingly, North Carolina only ceased these sterilizations in the 1970s. This is the first time […]

  12. Endless surfing « fourthrow
    Endless surfing « fourthrow January 4, 2009 at 5:37 pm |

    […] NC Panel Recommends Reparations for Victims of Forcible SterilizationA state House panel recommended… […]

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