Eugenics: The Godfather of the tragic mythology of racism in the Western World

7 mins read

By DAVID TAUB

In more than 500 years, several powerful forces, institutions and corrupt ideas created the mythology of racism that predominates in Western cultures today. One such force stands out in recent history: Eugenics.

The so-called “science” of Eugenics exploded late in the 19th century and dominated the biological sciences, culture, government and politics for the next half century. The Eugenics movement almost single-handedly cemented the fable of racism as a bedrock belief in the societies of all Western democracies.

“Scientific racism” was a construct of the Eugenics movement, allegedly built on Physical Anthropology and Darwinian evolution. There were three principles that underpinned scientific racism: humans were divided into distinct hierarchical races, with Nordic and Aryan white races at the top; intellectual, moral, cultural and physical traits of each race were believed to be immutable; and the mixture of the races were believed to result in reversion to the inferior type.

Eugenics demanded that mixing the superior white race with the inferior black races MUST be prevented. Regrettably, the pseudo-science of Eugenics dominated because bio-evolutionary science would not discover the basis of heredity (DNA) until the 1950s.

Fortunately, this true understanding of the real principles of human inheritance killed Eugenics. Alas, it died too late to prevent the evils of racism from being inculcated into our culture and infecting the “Halls of Government.”

Early in the 20th century, three powerful and influential Eugenics organizations were formed: Eugenics Record Office (ERO); Eugenics Research Organization (ERO) and the Eugenics Committee of the United States of America (ECUSA). These organizations included as members and were supported by powerful and wealthy white men, including such luminaries as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations, Robert Yerkes, SCOTUS Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Thomas Edison, banker J. P. Morgan, and many other scions of America’s elite. The immediate goals of these small but immensely formidable eugenics organizations promoted selective breeding, sterilization of the “unfit” races and limiting immigration of the lower races.

As early as 1882, California passed the Chinese Exclusion Act because Eugenicists believed the Chinese were undesirable and “unfit.” In 1917, an “Asiatic Barred Zone” was created preventing immigration from much of east Asia.

Early in the 20th century, Eugenicists established the Immigration Restriction League, which had enormous influence on American government and the American psyche. In 1924, led by the die-hard Eugenicist U. S. Senator Albert Johnson, Congress passed and President Coolidge signed the Johnson-Lodge Act.

This race-based restrictive immigration law remained the major policy directing immigration until 1952. The quotas set in 1939 were responsible for preventing Jews fleeing German persecution on the MS St. Louis from entering Ellis Island; all 620 passengers were returned to Europe.

Racism dwelling within our government reared its ugly head again during the Trump administration. The President attempted to prohibit immigration of middle-eastern Muslims and also residents from “s..thole” countries (all of whom were black), because these folks were considered inferior to white Americans; Trump’s deceitful beliefs come right out of the eugenics’ textbook.

Driven by POTUS’ racial animus, the number of refugees admitted has fallen from 85,000 to barely 12,000, annually.

After the Civil war, marriage bans were primarily racially driven; i.e., whites and black could not marry. Eliminating mixing whites with “inferior” races was always a major goal of the Eugenics movement; in 1919 the Eugenics organizations announced that, “… In reality, the Negro is inferior to the White. This is not hypothesis or supposition; it is a crude statement of actual fact.”

By 1913, 29 states (of 48) had laws forbidding race mixing; love could get you thrown in jail. As late as the 1960s, 17 states of our republic still had anti-miscegenation laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

California became the first state to ban these laws, and in 1967, the Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark case of Loving v. Virginia, ended such laws forever as unconstitutional.

The first state to legalize enforced sterilization of the “unfit” was Indiana, in 1907, and thereafter other states enacted similar such laws. By 1920, more than three thousand legal sterilizations of “imbicels,” unfits, and lower races, were accomplished.

In 1927, Virginia’s “one drop of blood” sterilization law became the law of the land, when the U. S. Supreme Court, in the infamous Buck v. Bell case (with only one dissenting vote) approved the Act of Virginia as constitutional.

Sadly, the great jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. led the fight to legalize enforced sterilization of the “unfit;” he was a dedicated believer in Eugenics. Then the dam burst, and three years after the Buck v. Bell decision, 30 states had adopted sterilization laws and approximately 36,000 people were sterilized. By the elimination of enforced sterilization by 1981, over 70,00 had been done.

Regrettably, America’s invention of Eugenics had world-wide impact. Germany’s sterilization laws were almost word for word based on the American Eugenics model. The Nazi’s “final solution” that became the genocidal Holocaust, murdering more than 6 million “defective/inferior Jews,” was Nazis taking Eugenic principles to its ultimate conclusion — extermination.

“Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers. 

David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999 and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate from 2010 to 2015. You can reach him at david.m.taub42@gmail.com.

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