Belated justice

Published 12:06 am Friday, December 9, 2011

We’re pleased to see a state task force is moving – albeit slowly – toward recommending compensation levels for victims of North Carolina’s now-defunct, forced-sterilization program.

It’s past time the state closed the books on this ghastly period in our history.

But a $20,000-per-victim figure that has been bandied about wouldn’t go far enough toward compensating the still-living victims.

That’s not to say every living person affected by the program should see this money as a windfall.

But, what value can one place on lives that might have been — lives that were prevented on the basis of race or supposed “mental unfitness.”

As reported by The Associated Press, North Carolina sterilized in excess of 7,600 people from 1929 to 1974.

“A task force report earlier this year said 1,500 to 2,000 of those victims are still alive, and the state has verified 48 victims,” wrote AP reporter Martha Waggoner. “The Legislature would have to approve any compensation.”

The arduous slog toward justice for these folks has dragged on beyond the point of decency.

When this matter falls into the Legislature’s hands, lawmakers up for re-election next year would do well to read Section 19 of Article 1, the Declaration of Rights in the N.C. Constitution.

This section is no guarantee of monetary reward, but monetary reward is the only final way for the state to prove it has left behind a horrific and inexplicable adherence to Nazi-like policies.

In part, Section 19 reads, “No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws; nor shall any person be subjected to discrimination by the State because of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

At long last, let those words ring true.