Photos: Survivors of North Carolina’s Eugenics Program
Photographs by Andy McMillan / Text by Maya Dusenbery
Between 1929 and 1974, North Carolina sterilized more than 7,500 of its residents. Most were operated on without their consent, having been deemed “feebleminded” and unfit to reproduce by the state Eugenics Board. Eighty-five percent were women; about 40 percent were black or Native American. As many as 2,000 victims are thought to still be alive. [Read more.]
See also Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington.
Is funny when doctors and other peeps act like my problem is that I’m obsessed w/ my disability. Um no. You have it backwards. The problem is I HAVE to be cuz it is a constant problem.
I’m deaf. About 25 years ago, I was working for a little while as a classroom aide at a program that worked with deaf children with multiple disabilities. All the teachers and other classroom aides were hearing, but they all could sign. Not at native signing level, but enough to carry on a basic conversation.
So, one evening, all us adults bring all the kids to a special one-night camping trip. All the kids are put to sleep, which frees up the adults to get into a circle and have some fun to ourselves for a while. People start talking, except they were forgetting to sign. So I reminded them to please sign so I could understand them. One of them told me that, no, they weren’t going to sign because this was our night to have fun and not have to think about communication.
So no one signed all night. They talked, they laughed, they had fun. I sat, feeling lost and cut off and betrayed. I remember wishing I had had the nerve to say, “No, what you mean is, you want a night in which everyone EXCEPT ME gets to not think about communication.”
I think sometimes when non-disabled people insist that we are too obsessed with our disability, what they REALLY mean is, “I wish you would stop reminding me that I have a shared responsibility as a fellow member of society to proactively ensure that we all have an opportunity to be engaged in society. I wish you would just pretend to not have a disability so I can pretend that I don’t have to do anything to enable you to do the same things the rest of us are doing.”
The luxury of not needing to think about disability in a society that is designed to lock us on the cold outside is a non-disabled privilege.
Things that, as a mentally ill person, I do not find offensive:
- Using the words “crazy” or “nuts” or “insane” to describe something unexpected or incredible, such as “Mars has two moons?! That’s crazy!” or “Wow, those Westboro Baptists sure believe some crazy shit” or “that party was insane!" or "You really think you can have unlimited chocolate by cutting it a certain way? Are you insane?" or "One Direction’s fans went nuts when they stepped out of that chariot."
- Using words like “lunatic” or “madman” to describe someone who’s behavior is fanatical, like “Why is that raving lunatic shouting about abortion at this soldier’s funeral?”
Things that, as a mentally ill person, I find incredibly offensive:
- When you use the words “crazy” or “nuts” or “insane” or “lunatic” or “madman” or any variant as a way of dismissing me or people like me and acting like we’re not full people
- The portrayal in the media of mentally ill people as not existing beyond their illness on the rare occasion we’re shown as existing at all
- The portrayal of mentally ill people as dangerous, or more violent than mentally healthy people, or less intelligent and competent to run their own lives than mentally healthy people, and the fact that a lot of writers don’t seem to understand that “mentally ill” is not a motivation.
- The fact that every time there’s a mass shooting or a bombing or an attack and they can’t scapegoat a religion or race for the crime, the perpetrator seems to grow a mental illness just in time for the trial, and people think that explains (or in some cases excuses) what they did
- The fact that when people push for not allowing people who can’t use them responsibly to own weapons, they always seem to start at “mentally ill people” on the list of people who shouldn’t be allowed handle weapons, even though there’s no correlation between mental illness and violence.
- When people say “you’d have to be crazy to (commit atrocity)” even though no, sane people commit atrocities all the time. In fact, most violent crime is committed by people with no mental illness.
- The fact that I have literally seen otherwise-progressive people suggest that all mentally ill people be registered by the government, and perhaps required to identify themselves, and maybe imprisoned for public safety if the need arises. How would you have us identify ourselves? Should we wear a patch on our clothes, or just present our papers upon request?
But I think what really gets me the most:
- When mentally healthy people call others out on our behalf when it comes to things on the first list, but remain completely silent about, or even actively complicit in, everything on the second list.
When people say “you’d have to be crazy to (commit atrocity)” even though no, sane people commit atrocities all the time. In fact, most violent crime is committed by people with no mental illness.
this always sends me straight into a spiral of exasperated despair
Dale J. Stephens, author of Hacking Your Education and founder of UnCollege.org
That standard notion is white and ableist as fuck.
True. I guess I learned a few trivial things in my North American school daze but I always learned incomparably more outside of school. And it for me it goes beyond the methods and speed and timing of the teaching. It’s the overarching situation of learning obedience and submission to arbitrary authority, and it’s the structure of the content itself, of blowing up 5% of world history (i.e. white history!) and erasing or whitewashing 95% of humanity’s great story, justifying a backwards world order, whitesplaining genocide and slavery and war and colonialism and corporate-military domination and imperialism and the ongoing shape and tilt of a profoundly unjust global politics, elevating the importance of certain mechanistic skills over the journey to become fully human, elevating the importance of certain intellectual sleights of hand over the quest to cultivate a wise heart. As I see it, in life it’s my job (or you might say, each of our jobs) to design and execute my own curriculum of learning and growth, never to accept the structure of a curriculum which comes from a system which is inarguably hostile to my vision of the world.(via zuky)
"mental illness" is a tool for situating violence outside of structural power. as long as this is true violence will always be attributed to mental illness and root causes of violence will by definition not be pathologized. when you say that x structural power should be considered an illness, you are ignoring the ways in which "health" and "illness" are constructed by those in positions of structural power, and excusing institutional violence as an individual phenomenon
that is to say, the archetypal psycho is necessary grease for the wheels of liberal politics
A fourteen year-old girl has her armpits forcibly shaved by a teacher, in front of other students. The teacher and school district defend it because the girl is developmentally disabled and needs to learn “independent living skills” (otherwise known, in this case, as why you must submit to gendered social norms at all times).
And the justification is that the girl would be made fun of if she didn’t do it? Maybe you should change the behavior of the kids that are the bullies, not the kids being bullied. Because even if you forcibly shave her armpits, she’s still noticeably disabled, and that (in her case) can’t be hidden/normalized quite so easily.
The message being sent here - and in so many of these programs - is “You’re being teased because you’re different, so try to be the same!” Rather than seeing the value in human difference and diversity.
What oh my god. If this was my kid I would be creating a fucking shitstorm over this.
I mean as long as we’re talking about Queer desirability let’s be real as fuck and talk about what this shit actually looks like. To be seen as desirable you must fit the following criteria:
- Must be white, light skinned POC will due in a pinch but will always get trumped by all mighty whitey
- Must be Cis, if trans you must be AFAB trans masculine
- If you’re a cis woman then you must be butch, if you’re a man cis or trans you must be masculine. same with AFAB non-binary people. Trans women/DMAB non-binary folks need not even apply.
- CANNOT be fat, if fat only slightly chunky/chunky and maybe you’ll get thrown a bone or two at some point.
- Must be neurotypical and able bodied, no exceptions.
And this is just the shit I can think of off the top of my head.
And I WISH I was exaggerating about all of this but I’ve seen it play out too many times already -_-
I think also in talking about desirability you have to address the strategies that non-desirable people have to create in order to snag a bone. You have to pretend you’re not crazy, you have to pretend you’re butch, you gotta play up your ‘exotic’ features, downplay your accents (unless the accent is desirable.)
And all this to gain enough social capital in order to get someone who would dismiss you otherwise, to like you.
Can we also discuss how people with that desirability, with that social capital, will use fetisihization to claim equality in terms of desirability and at the same time will cite that fetishization as ”unnecessary diversity” that is ”dividing us”.
Not to mention if we was undesirables get someone to like us/pay us heed suddenly we are a detriment and making a bad name for queers or that other person stands to lose social capital because they stooped that low.
FIRST STATE TO COMPENSATE EUGENICS VICTIMS
Over a period of 45 years, North Carolina forcibly sterilized 7,600 people it deemed mentally or socially unfit. Now, 39 years since the state’s eugenics program ended in 1974, it will finally make reparations, with lawmakers earmarking $10…
LISTEN: IF YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO IS A VICTIM OF N.C. EUGENICS OR WAS IMMEDIATELY EFFECTED BY IT THEN YOU NEED TO APPLY FOR THESE REPARATIONS.
YOU NEED TO APPLY
THERE IS AN INCREDIBLY SMALL AMOUNT OF APPLICANTS AND THE DEADLINE IS IN JUNE
Can you fuckers stop with the ableism now?!?!?!?
He’d been in therapy for years and never been diagnosed with a single mental illness or condition.
He was not mentally ill.
He was a self entitled misogynist.
That is all.
I have no friends and I am autistic and mentally ill, and I don’t go fucking killing people. Stop blaming this on mental illness or autism!
His family might have thought he was on the spectrum because of all the negative stereotypes of what autism is. Self/peer-diagnosis is valid, but only if for the right reasons…
If a pill can make me not suicidal, I’m going to take it.
I give no fucks about being your stereotypical weak mentally ill person who is dependent on the evil pharmaceutical industry to live. I am far more concerned with being happy about the fact that I can take a pill every morning that makes it possible for me to be alive. Without working meds I can’t go to school. I can’t have a job. I can’t interact with people. I can’t feed myself, I can’t clean up after myself, I can’t take care of myself at all. Without working meds I am so exhausted and in so much pain and so depressed and anxious that I can’t leave my apartment. I can’t leave my room. I can’t get out of bed.
How dare anyone shame me for using a pill that fixes these problems when no other option has ever worked?
How on earth can anyone try to argue to me that taking a pill every morning that makes me functional is a worse fate than debilitating depression and anxiety? That being on pills for the rest of my life is somehow worse than killing myself at 20 years old?
it’s pretty common for people discussing rape culture within feminist discourse to conveniently leave out disabled girls, but this is just a casual reminder that disabled women are far more likely to be sexually assaulted, abused or raped than able-bodied women. on top of that, 50% of deaf girls and 54% of deaf boys have been sexually abused or assaulted. so please stop leaving us out of your discussion about rape culture.