Eugenics: harmony in the tree of life and death; this what society apart from God looks like - it depends on the survival of the fittest. But in the case of proponents of eugenics, who were influential in the early 20th century, people like Margaret Sanger, attempted to help the process along by suppressing the right to procreate for those who are deemed less fit, including blacks in the U.S.
Eugenics: harmony in the tree of life and death; this what society apart from God looks like - it depends on the survival of the fittest. But in the case of proponents of eugenics, who were influential in the early 20th century, people like Margaret Sanger, attempted to help the process along by suppressing the right to procreate for those who are deemed less fit, including blacks in the U.S. The organization supported the practice sterilization for blacks and others.
It’s a pattern of thinking that aligned itself with racist whites in the South; they did not want to allow blacks to marry whites and effectively punished blacks who even acted friendly to white women. History is full of how young black men were punished to the point of lynching for even being in the same area, or touching a white girl. The stories of how blacks were killed, murders by the Klu Klux Klan, are gruesome, to say the least.
In Tulsa, OK, On the night of May 31,1921, mobs called for the lynching of Dick Rowland, a Black man who shined shoes, after hearing reports that on the previous day he had assaulted Sarah Page, a white woman, in the elevator she operated in a downtown building. But the fact is that he never assaulted her, she was just in the same elevator with him.
Why were blacks attacked in Tulsa? Probably because white’s, led by the Klan, were jealous of Black Wall Street, an all black, prosperous area of Tulsa. They were simply looking for an excuse to attack these people, many of whom were more wealthy than the white’s living next to them.
While part of this meanness of spirit can be attributed to how blacks were treated under slavery, the roots of it lie in the belief that the black race is inferior to the white race. Public lynchings in the South are the result of these beliefs, that killing a black man is allowed because he is less than human.
While intellectuals in the eugenics movement were not directly responsible for the lynchings of blacks, they were certainly indirectly responsible.
The American Eugenics League used labels feebleminded, imbecile, immoral and criminal. Even poverty or pauperism, is described as something that can be inherited. People with epilepsy should not be allowed to procreate; instead, they should be sterilized.
"The problem in the North is the same as in the South, except that it was considered to be more severe, since there were more blacks or former slaves in the South" - Dr. Charles Davenport director of the Eugenics record office, co-founder of the American Eugenics Society.
(The Eugenics Society exists today, in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, but mostly in the form of an archive of American eugenics thinking and writing).
Sanger was the founder of the American Birth Control League, and the Birth Control Review.
It was here that she wrote about her plans in infiltrate American society with the need to effectively exclude blacks from the right of reproduction.
“(Eugenics shows that) we are paying for the ever increasing dictates of an every increasing unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all - that the wealth of individuals and of states is being diverted from the development and the progress of human development and civilization”
Margaret Sanger, Birth Control Review, 1922
The idea of eugenics was popular in the early 20th century, and a number of church denominations even got on board with the need to promote the sterilization of people who were considered inferior. Look at the front page of her publication and one can see the number of clergy members listed. It was thought to be a good idea, despite the insidious nature of its ideas.
“The population question is the true enigma of the Sphinx. In comparison with the ravages of that terrible monster,over-population, all other problems are effaced, insignificant,” said Thomas Huxley.
“The population question is the real riddle of the sphinx, to which no political Oedipus has as yet found the answer. In view of the ravages of the terrible monster over-multiplication, all other riddle sink into insignificance.”
It’s no coincidence that Huxley was considered Darwin’s bulldog, and helped to complete the link between Darwinism and eugenics in England and the U.S.
The laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit and human life is only of value when it of use to the community or race.
Madison Grant, 1916, co-founder of the American Eugenics Society
“The black man has never been a competitor, but has always been subservient to the white race. And just so long as he remains subservient, his position is secure, and just so soon as he becomes a competitor, his fate is sealed.”
Dr. Benjamin Hays, Eugenicist, 1905.
All of these people were closely aligned with Sanger and her ideas.
History describes how Jim Crow laws were pervasive in society, including a page on a site written by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. But much of the segregation is the result of eugenics.
As well, a wikipedia site documents the number of Jim Crow laws in existence in the nation in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of them prohibited miscegenation, or the mixing of different racial groups through marriage, cohabitation, sexual relations or procreation. Other laws prohibited the education of blacks in the same facilities as whites, and blocked blacks, in general, from using the same facilities as whites, including hotels, restaurants, etc.
While the fact that these laws existed is well-documented, the reason why they existed, or the ideas that led to them, seems to be a mystery. The description by Gates does not list any reason for the persistence of such laws. For example, why were blacks considered inferior? Why did they need to be segregated?
The fact that Jesse Owens won four Gold medals during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, should have disproved the idea that blacks somehow could not compete or would wilt under pressure. Such thinking continued for decades after his epic Gold Medal performances. It wasn’t that he was fast, he was. It was that he was so much faster than his competitors in the 100 meter event, it was embarrassing for the other competitors. A movie was also made about Owens travails and triumph during the games.
Unfortunately, the effects of this eugenics belief about the black race continued for decades, and into World War II, where blacks and whites were segregated.
This happened despite the heroics of black servicemen during the war. A group of black servicemen fought in the Battle of the Bulge, distinguishing themselves with their bravery and courage - mostly famously 761st Tank Battalion, which was deployed in the Ardenne area of Belgium.
The offensive began in late 1944, less than a year before the end of the war, Sept. 2 of the following year. Blacks serving in France were instrumental in eliminating Germans in France before facing them in Belgium.
One tank commander Sergeant Warren G. H. Crecy, single-handedly eliminated German forward observers that were helping direct the bombing of Allied positions in France. His heroic actions earned him the title "Baddest Man in the 761st" from his comrades.
In 1966, the Texas Western College (now U of Texas El Paso) basketball team, won the NCAA Division I championship game, beating an all white team. As though to prove a point, Hoskins only started black players in the final. A movie produced by Disney, Glory Road, is about the story of Hoskins, his players, and the march to the championship.
Why are bright minds indifferent to the reasons why Jim Crow laws became so accepted in society in the 20th century. It’s not popular, any more than it is unpopular to try to find out why Adolf Hitler thought it was a good idea to kill millions of Jews.
Here is one historian's attempt to explain what led to the attitudes behind Jim Crow:
After WWI, French occupation forces came into the Rhineland, which included African colonial troops. While there were tales of these soldiers raping German women, the local opinion of these soldiers was that they were “courteous and poplar.”
In fact, only 400 - 600 children were born to these mixed race unions, compared to 20,000 to 25,000 blacks in Germany at the time. In a show of how irrational Hitler was, in Mein Kampf, he suggested that Jews were responsible for bringing Negroes into the Rhineland with the goal of “bastardizing” the white race, and thus lowering the German cultural and political level so that the Jew might dominate.
As strange as this sounds, the ideas proposed by the eugenics movement in the U.S., are just as irrational. Influential people held this believe despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
© 2016 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
Larry Ingram writes about the news media, movies and culture, as well as on topics like race, privilege, Christianity, religious expression and tolerance.
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