First, read this article.
I wrote my senior thesis in History on this exact topic, sterilization in the state of North Carolina. This sentence from the article particularly sums up what I argued with my research: “North Carolina’s law stood out for the wide net it cast.”
I think that it is remarkable that the BBC was able to capture the thing that set North Carolina’s sterilization practices out from those of the rest of the United States. Their short article is one of the best assessments of this shameful story that I’ve ever read.
Next week, on Wednesday June 22, 2011, thirty-two years after the state of North Carolina finally abolished the Eugenics Board, the state will hold a hearing that will determine whether living victims will be offered restitution in their lifetimes. What I did not know is that there are an estimated two thousand nine hundred people who were sterilized in North Carolina and who are still alive today.
Then North Carolina governor Mike Easley offered an apology in 2002 to victims of sterilization. Many other state governors did the same. However, the effort to make right on what happened to living victims ended there. North Carolina is the first to take the next step.
I’m attending the hearing next Wednesday and I am very much looking forward to hearing the stories of those sterilized firsthand. I can’t say I’m not anxious, but I am glad to be able to watch my fellow North Carolinians move toward a real resolution to this shameful chapter in our state’s history. I’m not sure exactly how I became interested in this topic, and I don’t know exactly why it happened when it did. I do know, however, that I am going to be a member of an audience full of people whose lives have been and will be touched by the legacy of North Carolina’s eugenics program. There is a chance to attempt to repay the 2,900 living victims of the program, and I cannot wait to be there to see their suffering acknowledged. As I head to North Carolina’s capital next week, I can’t say that I’ve ever been prouder of where I come from.