Monday, August 8, 2011

Forced Sterilizations Still Haunt Thousands Of Black Women

By Julius Kane

The State of North Carolina is apologizing to Elaine Riddick who was only 14 years old when state doctors performed an illegal sterilization on her to prevent the young woman from ever having anymore children. “They cut me open like I was a hog,” the now 57 year old Woman painfully recalled. The procedure was done without her knowledge or consent; as was the case with the majority of  victims.  Riddick was one of 13 people who spoke out at a meeting to determine the amount of compensation the state of North Carolina should pay the victims of their population control program.  An estimated 7,600 people who were deemed “unfit to procreate” were sterilized in North Carolina alone. There are 60,000 known victims nationwide, with tens of thousands more sterilized through unofficial and undocumented channels.

These figures, however,  do not include those states that destroyed documents after dismantling their eugenics programs. Information on thousands of victims who have since died, relocated or simply unaware their inability to have children was the result of state sponsored sterilization, will also never be known.  North Carolina is the only state that’s attempting to compensate its victims. Several other states are offering its victims apologies but currently no type of compensation or justice.

In 1968 Riddick gave birth to her only child. It was during the C-Section that doctors sterilized her; tricking her illiterate grandmother into signing consent forms. Today, a consent form still shows an “X” where the woman had put her mark. Riddick didn’t find out she had been sterilized until five years later when she and her husband were ready to have children of their own. There will never be an absolute way of counting how many young women across America were arbitrarily sterilized or how their live were affected after the fact.

Eugenics is the social movement of White Supremacist who were determined to control or destroy Negro populations after the end of slavery. Under the context of creating a better society Eugenicists made certain that anyone they considered undesirable, promiscuous, criminal, mentally ill, disabled, feeble minded, on welfare, etc., were prevented from having children; thereby systematically improving the genetic composition of the population. In North Carolina, children as young as 10 were sterilized for misbehaving in school, truancy, or getting into fights. State law gave social workers, doctors, nurses and other city administrators the ability to refer anyone of their choosing to the states board of eugenics to be sterilized. Poor and “retarded” whites were also targeted but the main objective was to curb “Negro” population growth.  

The North Carolina Eugenics Board was created in 1933 with no government oversight or state accountability. While the number of sterilizations in other states slowed down after the Nazi atrocities of World War II came to light, North Carolina's eugenics program increased. An estimated 3,000 victims are still living today. It wasn’t until 1974 that the North Carolina Eugenics Board was disbanded. The state issued a formal apology in 2002.

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