Eugenics: America's Past Genocide of Poor Minorities

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Eugenics is the theory that the human race can influence its own development through selective breeding.

And for decades, a nationwide eugenics program sterilized some 60,000 Americans against their will.

The movement specifically targeted the poor and minorities.

Elaine Riddick is one of those victims. She was just 13 years old when she was brutally raped by an unknown assailant.

"This person just jumped from behind a barn or building and drug me to a car. He raped me," she told CBN News.

The raped led to pregnancy. Nine months later, Riddick gave birth to a son.

"They immediately sterilized me at the same time without my knowledge or without my consent," she recalled.

"I kept getting really, really sick. I was hemorraging. I would walk in the street and I would pass out for no reason at all," Riddick continued. "After that, I started going to a private doctor and the doctors told me that I had been butchered."

Generations Destroyed

When Riddick was 19, she got married. It wasn't until she and her husband tried to start a family that she learned she could no longer bear children.

"[I] found out that when they went in to sterilize me they had so severely damaged my fallopian tubes until they could only patch one back up and the other one, I don't know what happened to it," Riddick said.

It was later revealed that the state of North Carolina ordered her to be sterilized after a decision by the state's Eugenics Board.

According to the North Carolina Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, at one time, 31 states in the U.S. had government-run eugenics programs. In North Carolina, close to 8,000 men, women, and children -- mostly poor, black, disabled and uneducated -- were forcibly sterilized from 1929 to 1974.

"The answers that they're giving me, I don't like them because when I ask them the same question, 'Why?' their response is because I was 'feeble minded,'" Riddick explained.

In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed aspects of the eugenics movement. On May 2, 1927, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote:

"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."

Blatant Racisim?

In his book War Against the Weak: The Horrifying American Roots of Nazi Eugenics, Edwin Black says, "The American eugenics intended to subtract from society all minorities, including emancipated negroes, immigrant Asian laborers, Indians, and Hispanics."

Black is also a historian and recently testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee about the history of racist eugenics in America.

"The genocidal actions of the American eugenicists were not conducted by men in white sheets, burning crosses at midnight," he told lawmakers. "But by men in white lab coats and in three pieces suits in the fine corridors of our great universities in the state House, in the courthouse, and in the medical society."

"This was all subject to the rule of law," Black said.

Eugenics is also being blamed for paving the way for today's selective abortion practices, in which babies are aborted because of their race or sex.

"The result of abortion on demand in America today is that between 40 and 50 percent of all African-American babies, virtually one in two, are killed before they're born," Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.

"I think it's outrageous in a nation where we're so interested, and appropriately so, in protecting women and minorities, yet we turn such a blind eye to the fact that children are being aborted just based on their skin color, just based on the fact that they're little girls," Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, added.

Too Little, Too Late

In 2002, the governments of North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon, and South Carolina all issued apologies to victims of forced sterilization.

North Carolina is considering compensating sterilization survivors, providing between $20,000 to $50,000 to each verified living victim.

Still, Riddick said that's not enough.

"To me, $20,000 is a slap in the face," she said. "It's a big insult added on to what you've already done to me."

Despite the horrifying news, Riddick went on to get a college degree.

She told CBN News that her faith in God is what has helped her to forgive those who robbed her of life.

"If it wasn't the God in me, or my recognizing Him within me, or if I wasn't having those communions with Him, I don't know where I might be," she said.

Today, Riddick enjoys being a mother. Her son Tony is a successful businessman.

She is also on a mission to help other survivors find the healing that she has.

"Just being able to be a mouthpiece for others that cannot speak for themselves, or are afraid to come out. Or for the ones it happened to that might be dead and wanted to say something and couldn't say anything," Riddick said. "[I] recognize my mission and I'm going to fulfill it."

*Originally aired on January 11, 2012.

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.