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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Creating America’s Master Race

The year was 1933 when Nazi Germany passed its first law decreeing the mandatory sterilization of all citizens deemed unfit to have children. This beginning stage of Hitler’s plan to create a master race - the perfect Aryan, as it were - allowed infanticide for children born with serious birth defects. And doctors had to report any genetic disorder to the courts. Of course, it was only the start of a period of horror in Germany. Next came the expulsion of the Jews and Gypsies; before it ended, 6 million “undesirables” had been exterminated. Many others became human guinea pigs, Josef Mengele’s subjects for inhuman medical experiments.

Today Americans view Hitler’s attempt to create his German Master Race with revulsion. Perhaps this is because we don’t know one crucial fact: America tried to do it first. Six years before Germany’s ethnic cleansing laws, our own Supreme Court upheld a state’s right to sterilize anyone it deemed undesirable. President Calvin Coolidge said, “It is imperative to keep inferior races out of America, for America must be kept American.”

It had all started with Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, published in 1859, which detailed his theory of evolution. Once Darwin’s theory became accepted science, it wasn’t long.Of course, long before Indiana passed that first law, certain doctors had already been performing sterilization procedures. One was Dr. H.C. Sharp. Sharp, the head physician at the Indiana State Reformatory, a home for delinquent boys - none of whom fit any of the state’s qualifications for
sterilization. They were just troubled or abandoned kids; some had run away from home simply to get away from abusive parents. Dr. Sharp experimented on no fewer than 465 of these defenseless children between 1899 and 1907. And that’s by his own admission, when he defended his actions. It should be pointed out that it was Sharp’s experiments on those helpless children that gave us the medical procedure known today as the vasectomy.

By 1906, J. H. Kellogg of cereal fame was holding lectures on Race Betterment at his sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. In 1914 courses on eugenics, or racial superiority, were being taught at Harvard, Columbia, Cornell and Brown universities. The American Eugenics Society put on exhibits at state fairs across the country, comparing mating perfect humans to creating a prize bull. At their 1926 display in Philadelphia, the Society’s sign read, “Some people are born to be a burden on the
.” The Nazis would later use that exact statement as justification for their actions.

In 1917, the movie The Black Stork depicted how wonderful America could be if we just stopped the breeding of undesirables and let certain babies die at birth. It starred Dr. Harry Haiselden as himself; appropriately so, as it had been Dr. Haiselden who, in 1915, had taken eugenics to a new level by refusing to treat children born with birth defects and allowing them to die. Suddenly, doctors across
America came forward; backing Dr. Haiselden’s stand, they vowed that they too would refuse to help any child live who had been born less than perfect. Then came a landmark case, that of 18-year-old Carrie Buck. Considered feebleminded, just like her mother, the girl lived in the Virginia State Colony. Albert Priddy, superintendent of the institution, picked Carrie out for sterilization knowing that a lawsuit would follow. It did, and the suit was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. Of course, the deck was stacked against Carrie Buck: The physician who sterilized her was also an attorney handling her case. And on May 2nd, 1927 - six years before the Nazis adopted the idea - the Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 that the
before politicians and scientists were discussing how to breed a perfect race by getting rid of their countries’ undesirables. The science of doing that is called eugenics, a term that Darwin’s own cousin, Sir Francis Galton, gave us in 1883.
Within a couple of years, the idea of creating a pure race came to America, and the action we took was to start denying certain people the right to have children. By 1890, the push was on to improve the Anglo race. The first victory for eugenics groups in America was the creation of the very first IQ tests. That’s right, the IQ tests that our kids take today were first created and instituted in an effort to find those whose mental abilities didn’t stand up to the rest of society’s. One term that nearly everyone knows is “moron.” We got it from a eugenics scientist working on IQ tests; he created the label to categorize persons with an IQ of between 50 and 75 - where “normal” is 100.

In 1907 Indiana became the first state to pass laws favoring the sterilization of certain people, based on the science of eugenics. Twenty-seven other states would shortly follow. At first the laws were specific. You had to be judged insane, idiotic or an imbecile before the state could order you sterilized. However, like many a government mandate passed with the best of intentions, the list kept
expanding; eventually, legal grounds for sterilization would include deafness, blindness, alcoholism or drug use. States had the right to sterilize those they deemed unfit. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes would deliver the majority opinion. He wrote in part, “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. Three
generations of imbeciles are enough.” That’s right, our government made creating a Master Race America’s official policy. Our highest court in the nation had kicked the doors open. More than 60,000 Americans - maybe far more - would eventually be sterilized, on increasingly flimsy pretexts. Many children sterilized had been considered feebleminded because they were slow in school; actually, they only needed glasses. They weren’t morons; they simply couldn’t see to keep up. There is the possibility that others that today would be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder
also fell into the “feebleminded” category.

Ray Hudlow was only a boy when he ran away from his alcoholic and abusive father,
which made him a delinquent. For that he was sterilized in 1942. He joined the Army
the next year and served with honor in the Second World War. In 1999, at age 75,
he asked the Virginia legislature for an apology for what the Commonwealth had done to him. They refused. As Senator Warren Barry told him, the legislature saw “little sense in going back to stir up the pot of history” or in reliving one of the most
unfortunate chapters in America’s history. Perhaps that’s why those chapters don’t appear in the history our schools teach.

After World War II, when we discovered the Nazis’ atrocities, Americans suddenly realized that we had done some of the exact same things. Well, no one wanted to be thought a Nazi; the Eugenics Societies all disappeared quickly. However, the sterilizations continued, quietly. The last was believed performed in California in 1972. This part of our history is still soft-pedaled. You’ve more than likely never heard that Americans once tried to breed our undesirables out of the race. You certainly didn’t know that Hitler got the idea from us.
One last story - the final chapter in the life of Carrie Buck, the sterilized 18-year-old girl who lost the rigged Supreme Court case in 1927. She was found alive and well in 1980, living in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her sister Doris. And it turns out that Carrie wasn’t feebleminded at all. Neither was her sister Doris, who had also been sterilized - though no one had ever told her that. At the time,
doctors maintained that they had performed an appendectomy. Carrie had always known her fate, but it was 1980 before Doris finally learned why she had never been able to have children.

A sad chapter of American life closed. And hidden. Today all that remains of that time in America,
when sterilization was going to give us a more perfect race, are three things: IQ tests, the original
scoring system to find those in need of sterilization. The vasectomy, courtesy of the 465 truant Indiana
schoolboys, unsuspecting guinea pigs whose lives Dr. Sharp irreversibly changed. And the word
Remember all the “little moron” jokes kids used to pass around? Today, when one thinks of all of the Americans who suffered to bring it to us, the word “moron” doesn’t seem humorous at all.

> Taken from " The Backside of American History " by Ed Wallace <

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