“[T]he concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race didn''t originate with Hitler. The idea was created in the United States.”
"Eugenics is the self-direction of human evolution": Logo from the Second International Eugenics Conference, 1921, depicting Eugenics as a tree which unites a variety of different fields (Wikipedia)
Introduction: While I will be drawing on multiple sources for this article, I recommend Edwin Black’s War Against the Weak to the reader interested in a single source for the topic of America’s pursuit of it’s own Aryan racial population. I will allow Mr. Black to provide the introduction:
“Eugenics was the racist pseudoscience determined to wipe away all human beings deemed "unfit," preserving only those who conformed to a Nordic stereotype. Elements of the philosophy were enshrined as national policy by forced sterilization and segregation laws, as well as marriage restrictions, enacted in twenty-seven states. In 1909, California became the third state to adopt such laws [the first was Indiana, 1907]. Ultimately, eugenics practitioners coercively sterilized some 60,000 Americans, barred the marriage of thousands, forcibly segregated thousands in "colonies," and persecuted untold numbers in ways we are just learning. Before World War II, nearly half of coercive sterilizations were done in California, and even after the war, the state accounted for a third of all such surgeries.”
Eugenics was not an “invention” of the United States, but it was enthusiastically embraced by America. Politicians, educators, social scientists of all stripes saw in genetic engineering and the resulting American racial ideal a strategic national imperative, a goal of the highest order. The following are drawn from the book, The Nazi Connection, by Stefan Kuhl: In his inaugural address, Woodrow Wilson said: “[T]he whole nation has awakened to and recognizes the extraordinary importance of the science of human heredity [eugenics], as well as its application to the ennoblement of the human family… Theodore Roosevelt expressed the fear that “inferior” segments of the population were gaining power.” Steps taken to control the danger to humanity’s “ennoblement,” to ensure that the “inferior” would not “gain power”, at least in the early years included legalization of the involuntary sterilization of the “unfit,” and laws “that prohibited marriage and sexual intercourse between blacks and whites... The Commission of the American Genetic Association… proposed that the lowest 10% of the population be sterilized. [The measure] was intended to “eradicate” the “inferior” members of the society over a time period spanning two generations.”
Without American leadership, training and support, German National Socialism would likely have still pursued the Final Solution to the West’s Jewish Problem, but the effort would have lacked the credibility of a “scientific” justification, the enthusiastic moral support of America’s elite, the funds provided by America’s wealthy.
“The Immigration Restriction League (founded in 1894) was the first American entity associated officially with eugenics. The League sought to bar what it considered dysgenic members of certain races from entering America and diluting what it saw as the superior American racial stock through procreation.” Although “eugenic ideas” were already “in the air” among America’s elite in the 19th century (Alexander Graham Bell, married to a deaf woman, proposed sterilization as a way to eliminate “deafness” from America’s gene pool around 1881) America’s movement to genetically engineer an ideal racial stock gained general popularity only in the early 20th century.
Contestants get ready for the Better Baby Contest at the 1931 Indiana State Fair (Wikipedia)
In 1904 the Carnegie Institution created a laboratory complex on Long Island dedicated to eugenics research. Carnegie generosity was soon matched by other far-sighted philanthropies such as the Harriman railroad fortune and the Rockefeller Foundation. “The Rockefeller Foundation helped found the German eugenics program and even funded the program that Josef Mengele worked in before he went to Auschwitz.” But this is getting ahead of our story.
Before describing how American eugenics was applied as social engineering in the years before Nazism it is instructive to acknowledge some of its more prominent supporters.
A short list of the founders of the American Eugenics Society (established in 1922) includes: J. P. Morgan, Jr. of U. S. Steel; Miss E. B. Scripps of Scripps-Howard and United Press International; John H. Kellogg of cereal fame; Margaret Sanger of Planned Parenthood.
Prominent politicians and others included: President Theodore Roosevelt; President Woodrow Wilson; Alexander Graham Bell; the Rockefellers, Harrimans, and Carnegies; Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, to name a few.
Nearly all educational institutions from Ivy League to local collages promoted eugenics as a positive model to improve the national gene pool. Positive change, according to the model, would be achieved through encouraging, “the higher classes of society to reproduce offspring.” Those outside that model, the “unfit,” would be eliminated “humanely” by forced sterilization. Euthanasia, or “negative eugenics,” was proposed as a national project, was in fact utilized by some physicians and hospital administrators, but never became, as in Germany, a national program of race improvement. One reason advanced was that Germany’s public and overuse of euthanasia made it unattractive outside of Europe.
The “Unfit” defined: Among the so-called genetic traits to be eliminated from the national Aryan gene pool was deafness, blindness, insanity, criminal tendencies and laziness. Schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and depression: mental illness in general was also slated for elimination. Some races would be allowed to survive in segregated reservations, but sexual intercourse or intermarriage, called miscegenation, would be illegal and carry severe penalties. But restrictions on racial intercourse was not unique to eugenics; its history as practiced by many states went back to the American colonies.
“In 1907 Indiana became the first of more than thirty states to adopt legislation aimed at compulsory sterilizationof certain individuals.Although the law was overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1921,the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a Virginia law allowing for the compulsory sterilization of patients of state mental institutions in 1927.”
Eventually thirty-three states would adopt laws, backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, providing for involuntary sterilization resulting in more that 60,000 by mid-century. The last legal forced sterilization in the United States was performed thirty-six years after WWII, in Oregon in 1981.
The American model of race improvement by means of sterilizing the “unfit” would be replicated by the Third Reich. “[T]he Germans enacted compulsory sterilization laws partly based on the U.S. experience, and American eugenicists took pride in their influence on Nazi policies.
Miscegenation laws forbade sexual relations, including marriage, between white and non-whites in the United states from earliest colonial days until as recently as the year 2000. Penalties varied from state to state and could involve a fine, “up to $2,000 and/or prison terms of up to 10 years.” But often offenders did not face justice in court, but at the end of a rope, or worse.
At mid-20th century approximately 30 states still had laws regarding miscegenation. One example was the Virginia Integrity Act of 1924. It prohibited marriage between a white person and anyone with a trace of blood other than Caucasian. The 1967 Supreme Court decision on Loving v. Virginia made American anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.” At the time of the Court’s decision Barack Obama was six years old.
But Virginia was not the last state to surrender its miscegenation laws. Alabama was the last hold-out and only rescinded the law in November, 2000.
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