I am still reading Edwin Black’s War Against the Weak – Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race. Like everything worthwhile, there is a price to be paid. And for this book, it is so full of detail, so dense, wonderfully dense, it takes a while to read, that being the price. In the first paragraph, in the Acknowledgements, Black writes “More than fifty researchers in fifteen cities in four countries, assisted by scores of archivists and librarians at more than one hundred institutions, combined to ingather and organize some 50,000 documents, together with hundreds of pages of translation, as well as to review hundreds of books and journals, all to collectively tear away the thickets of mystery surrounding the eugenics movement around the world.”
Dear Edwin Black,
The capacity your brain holds for information is incredible and blows me away. I like your book.
What most fascinates me about this is how very little the average person knows about Eugenics. (Eugenics was the racist pseudoscience determined to wipe away all human beings deemed “unfit,” preserving only those who conformed to a Nordic stereotype.) Little do most people know that it was the US that started sterilizing “defectives” before Hitler took it to the next level. The research and ideals of this movement were paid for and created here, in America. In fact, loads of people thought Eugenics was great. Even Teddy Roosevelt wrote in a letter to Davenport (VERY BAD GUY, the one behind the US movement), “I agree with you…that society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind….Some day, we will realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty, of the good citizen of the right type, is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world: and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type.” When I read this, I can’t possibly grasp who has the right to deem any human the wrong or right type.
A hundred years ago The Carnegie Foundation, The Rockefellers, and Mrs. Harriman (railroad fortune, VIP lady) gave millions to fund the nationwide gathering and collection of information on US citizens to organize who would be sterilized. To not further burden the load on our nation with the dregs of society, Eugenics was ultimately a bunch of rich people deciding who was worthy of having children, and who was going to be sterilized. If you were Jewish, Italian, Baltic, Irish, black, if you had epilepsy (they really hated these people, seizures really made rich people grossed out), had generations of poor people in your family (they called this hereditary pauperism), were feeble-minded, had STDs or children out of marriage (i.e. looseness), among many other reasons, you would be deemed unfit.
So these rich assholes, for lack of a better word, put all this money into programs, some even funded by the US government, to sterilize the unfit. Black writes “Throughout the first six decades of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of Americans and untold numbers of others were not permitted to continue their families by reproducing. Selected because of their ancestry, national origin, race or religion, they were forcibly sterilized, wrongly committed to mental institutions where they died in great numbers, prohibited from marrying, and sometimes even unmarried by state bureaucrats. In America, this battle to wipe out whole ethnic groups was fought not by armies with guns nor by hate sects at the margins. Rather, this pernicious white-gloved war was prosecuted by esteemed professors, elite universities, wealthy industrialists and government officials colluding in a racist, pseudoscientific movement called eugenics. The purpose: create a superior Nordic race.”
Did you know this? I didn’t and that’s why I am taking my sweet old time to read every sentence carefully in this terrifying book. I don’t want to miss a single fact.
I have to share with you one of my favorite pages, because I don’t know about you, but I personally have never spent any time reading newspaper articles from a hundred years ago. But it may be the next thing that commands my attention.
Black writes and shares a newspaper article “Crusading journalists and commentators began to expose American eugenics as a war of the wealthy against the poor. On October 14, 1915, the Hearst newspapers syndicated a series of powerful editorials pulling no punches. Typical was an editorial in the San Francisco Daily News:
WHERE TO BEGIN
The millions of Mrs. Harriman, relict of the great railroad “promoter,” assisted by other millions of Rockefeller and Carnegie, are to be devoted to sterilization of several hundred thousands of American “defectives” annually, as a matter of eugenics.
It is true that we don’t yet know all that the millions of our plutocracy can do to the common folks. We see that our moneyed plutocrats can own the governments of whole states, override constitutions, maintain private armies to shoot down men, women, and children, and railroad innocent men to life imprisonment for murder, or lesser crimes. And IF WE SUBMIT TO SUCH THINGS, we ought not to be surprised if they undertake to sterilize all those who are obnoxious to them.
Of course, the proposition depends much on who are to be declared “defective.”
The old Spartans, with war always in view, used to destroy, at birth, boys born with decided physical weakness. Some of our present-day eugenists go farther and damn children before their birth because of parents criminal inclined. Then we have eugenic “defectives” in the insane and incurably diseased. The proposition is not wholly without justification. But isn’t there another sort of “defective,” who is quite as dangerous as any but whom discussion generally overlooks, especially discussion by the senile long-haired pathologists, and long-eared college professors involved in the Harriman-Rockefeller scheme to sterilize?
A boy is born to millions. He either doesn’t work, isn’t useful, doesn’t contribute to human happiness, is altogether a parasite, or else he works to add to his millions, with the brutal, insane greed for more and more that caused the accumulation of the inherited millions. Why isn’t such THE MOST DANGEROUS “DEFECTIVE” OF ALL? Why isn’t the prevention of more such progeny THE FIRST DUTY OF EUGENICS? Such “defectives” directly attack the rights, liberties, happiness, and lives of millions.
Talk about inheriting criminal tendencies. Is there a ranker case of such than the inheritance of Standard Oil criminality as evidenced in the slaughter of mothers and their babies at Ludlow?
Sterilization of hundreds of thousands of the masses, by the Harrimans and Rockefellers? LET’S FIRST TRY OUT THE “DEFECTIVENESS” OF THE SONS OF BILLIONAIRES!
Let’s first sterilize where sterilization will mean something immediate, far-reaching and thorough in the way of genuine eugenics!”
Holy cow! I never read anything like that, that gives me goose bumps, in anything I read in the news today. People had guts and were plain about what they said 100 years ago. I have read that article ten times over and each time I can’t get over the parts written in all caps. People shouted how they felt, what they thought. They didn’t use puny inside voices.
I would very much recommend reading this book. This movement of hate started here, in the land of the free. And it’s just weird how little us common “defectives” know about how we would have been treated 100 years ago. We should all know this, and nobody should think of the names Rockefeller, Carnegie and Harriman as philanthropic greats. Their money was dirty, filthy and used to harm so many for so long.