This article was published in The Appalachian.
Edwin Black wants you to know the truth about American eugenics.
In the early twentieth century, over 60,000 U.S. residents were sterilized in state institutions. The sterilizations were coercive and took place for an array of reasons. Some were sterilized because of their criminal activities, others because of low intelligence, still others because of perceived promiscuity.
In North Carolina, over 7,600 people were sterilized under a system which allowed individuals to be recommended for sterilization to the state eugenics board. Some, the Associated Press reported in June, were as young as 10 years old.The goal being sought: to improve the human race by eliminating undesirable humans, Black said.
Black, the author of “War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race,” will speak Monday at 7 p.m. in Belk Library 114. His talk is titled “War Against the Weak: Eugenics in North Carolina, the U.S. and Nazi Germany.”
Black’s appearance is sponsored by Appalachian State University’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies.
Black said his goal is to bring America’s history of eugenics into the light. He wants to increase the likelihood that the scientists of the future will look upon eugenics with a “never again” attitude.
“My mission is to remind people that we will never improve our future until we look over our shoulder and confront our dark past. Only then can we avoid walking back to where we started and repeating these same crimes again,” he said.
North Carolina officially apologized for its program of sterilizations in 2002. Now, the state is considering a program of compensation for victims. Figures as low as $20,000 and as high as $50,000 have been discussed, the Associated Press reported.
For Black, though, monetary compensation is not enough. In his view, the best way to compen- sate victims of the state’s eugenics program is to educate others about the fact that the program existed.
“I believe illumination is the best reparation,” he said. “North Carolina was an egregious offender. There should be courses taught at Duke University and Wake Forest and other campuses on exactly what the eugenic crimes were and how they happened.”
Dr. Rennie Brantz, co-director of the Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies, said Black has “a good record of stirring up questions” and will likely provoke a lively discussion about a period of history that is far from black and white.
“I hope people will go away thinking, you know, we all bear a certain degree of responsibility for what our forebears did in the past. Even though we didn’t do it, we still share that burden of responsibility,” Brantz said.
Black’s appearance at Appalachian is part of a speaking tour which began in 2009 and will continue through 2012.
“This needs to be known,” he said, “and I’m coming to App State to make it known.”