Help eugenics victims

Published 1:14 am Friday, August 19, 2011

North Carolina’s government should waste no more time in granting monetary compensation to victims of the state’s eugenics program.
As reported in an Associated Press article in Sunday’s Daily News, more than 7,600 people were sterilized under the state’s eugenics program between 1929 and 1974.
“By the time the program was halted, the majority of those neutered were young, black, poor women,” wrote AP National Writer Allen G. Breed.
Breed noted a legislative committee had recommended giving victims of the program $20,000 apiece, but these payments were stalled by the state’s budgetary constraints.
Budgetary constraints are no excuse.
The state, through then-Gov. Mike Easley, has already apologized to the eugenics victims, but monetary compensation would go a long way toward proving the sincerity of that apology.
It’s true that money alone won’t salve the wounds of American citizens scarred by a state-sponsored policy that wouldn’t have been incompatible with practices in Nazi Germany.
Yet, the money would be a sign that the Old North State is finally facing its terrible past — that the “it-can’t-happen-here” motto was wrong.
It did happen here, and the pain hasn’t gone away.
It’s far past time we, as a state, lived up to our true motto: To be rather than to seem.
Are we a racially tolerant state, looking toward the future, or are we hopelessly mired in a racist past?