Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Today in class we talked about Eugenics. Eugenics is the 'science' of being well-born. I.E. Eugenics focuses on letting families that are considered fitter in terms of morals and mental abilities have more kids and STOPPING people that are not fit from reproducing altogether.
The idea was apparently from Francis Galton (leader in forensic stuff and Darwin’s cousin, go figure) in Britain. People thought it sounded great to clean up the race, including notable big shots like George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill but Brit Parliament (this is in the 1900s) did not agree to enforce it and it never got state funding.
The ideas spread to the US and it was the best thing since whatever bread they were eating at the time.
Fit, tidy, morally upright and smart families, untainted by the mentally challenged and disabled. Sounded great. 30 states enacted laws that stemmed from Eugenic theory.In Virginia the Lynchburg Colony was a place for unfit members of society. Kind of like a mental facility. Except that it contained people with epilepsy, girls who were pregnant out of wedlock, families who had become homeless, boys who had stolen, and some people who were just poor. The “Racial Integrity Act”  led to compulsory sterilization laws passed by congress to stop them from having children and spreading the stupidity. The major player for Eugenics, Harry Laughlin, described them as “the shiftless, ignorant, and worthless class of anti-social whites of the South”.
About 8,300 people were sterilized in Virginia alone between 1924 and 1979. This stuff was happening until 1979. 31 YEARS AGO. In total about 60,000 people in America were sterilized for being mentally ill or socially disadvantaged. We watched a video with women describing having to stay in the Colony till they agreed to be sterilized and then moving out to try and live a normal life. One lady met a wonderful guy, fell in love and got married. They got divorced 10 years later because he couldn’t bear the idea of never having children.
Remember the Nazi’s and their horrible ideas about racial cleansing?  Nazi sterilization ideas stemmed from Eugenics. The Nazi’s awarded a doctorate to Harry Laughlin for his hard work to clean up the race. In 1938 an American eugenicist said "Germany in six years has sterilized about 80,000 of her unfit while the United States - with approximately twice the population - has only sterilized about 27,869  (…) The Germans are beating us at our own game." Let’s call it the ignored history of the Land of the Free.
I don’t know whether I take it too personally, but these things really makes me question human nature. Because it wasn’t that long ago. And it’s easy to say that the guys in charge were just bad people, but there was very little uproar about the laws for a long time, so the general population once thought it was OK. Like Slavery. Reminds me of Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV). Then there’s science, which always ends up looking like the root of all evil… I wonder what we will think of mental institutions and healthcare practices 31 years from now. One can only hope that we are making better decisions.
On the positive side, the Gov of Virginia apologized and gave out a radio statement saying that victims should come to the State and would receive some assistance. Later in life, Laughlin became severely epileptic and was dismissed from work. The irony of life.

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