If a cripple who was sterilized by the state without their informed consent collects financial restitution from the state, it will put everyone else in an awkward social position. We won’t know how to react to them.
My first instinct would be to congratulate that cripple, maybe throw them a party. Maybe even a surprise party. They come home after picking up their restitution check and we all jump out from behind the furniture.
But maybe that’s inappropriate. I don’t know. How would one decorate for such a party? Balloons and streamers? It just doesn’t seem right. Should there be cake? What would one write on that cake? The party store consultant would be stumped.
This isn’t clear cut. It’s not like winning the World Series. I don’t think when you finally receive your sterilization restitution check the first thing you do is pour champagne all over your head. It’s not like winning the lottery. The lottery is free money. There’s no ambiguity to spoil it all.
Maybe the party should be a somber affair, something with black armbands. It’s like those stories we hear where a guy goes in to get his wisdom teeth pulled and somehow ends up castrated. Even if a jury awards the guy $10 million, it’s hard to feel envious.
Well, the state of North Carolina went berserk sterilizing cripples from 1929 all the way up to 1974. About 7,600 people were sterilized by “choice,” force or coercion under the authority of the N.C. Eugenics Board. The program was originally intended to keep cripples like those with epilepsy and “feeblemindedness” from reproducing more of their degenerate kind. A lot of the victims lived in state institutions. But eventually the program was expanded to include other undesirables, a lot of whom were poor women of color. This tells us that the N.C. Eugenics Board surely was composed of white, uncrippled males with money.
There was a time when these cripple sterilization campaigns we going on in a lot of states. About 10 years ago, surviving victims started speaking up in North Carolina. In 2002, the governor apologized on behalf of the state. Earlier this year, a task force created by the current governor decided each living victim should receive $50,000. So the governor included $20 million to pay for restitution in her budget and the republican-controlled House concurred. Ah but then the dear republican-controlled Senate shot it all down. The victims get squat.
Republican Senator Don East said, “It doesn’t change anything — if they’re sterile, they’re still sterile.” He said, "I'm so sorry it happened, but throwing money don't change it.”
Money doesn’t make any difference? Let’s take a quick poll: Which would you prefer?
a) Be forcibly sterilized and have $50,000
b) Be forcibly sterilized and not have $50,000
Who chooses option a? Need I count hands? Can we just call it unanimous?
So anyway, the rest of us dodged a bullet there. We won’t have to figure out the proper way to react to restituted victims. We don’t have to add a new chapter to our social etiquette books just yet.
I don’t know what’s next. Maybe the state Senate will at least appropriate enough to buy each survivor a t-shirt. We all know what the shirt will say.