Monday, December 27, 2010
Blog 7 --Indiana starts American eugenics in 1907
I got a book in the mail from IU Press. I had contributed a chapter in a book edited by Paul Lombardo. A Century of Eugenics in America. It was based on a conference I had attended about two or three years ago. I was asked to discuss the Indiana origins of the compulsory sterilization laws that Indiana initiated in 1907. I thought about how easily we are convinced that other people are inferior to us. What is pernicious is not the people but the outlooks they offer. We are not born communist or fascist, liberal or conservative. It is not in our genes to hate Jews, blacks, gays, Catholics, or WASPs. All of that is learned. So too are our attitudes about the rich and the poor, laborers and elites. Changing views is not easy for those reared in prejudice or privilege, poverty of wealth. The religions in which we are raised are often life-lasting. Tolerance, respect, and appreciation for diversity are also learned. Yet it is so easy to see behavior in others as “bred in the bone” if not engraved in our DNA sequences.