Imbeciles by Adam Cohen

book jacket with title and authorImbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by Adam Cohen, (2016)

This is probably the most famous case of any relating to the ill-considered eugenics movement that contributed to the discredited Social Darwinism philosophy and serious racism (blacks being considered subhuman for no actual basis other than having been enslaved because of the color of their skin – which I think if it was written as science fiction no one with a brain would find this notion credible and would not be able to suspend their disbelief for such a novel). And more obviously, led to the genocide of the Jews in the Holocaust, which led to a withdrawal of the concept from acceptable “science” but I fear lingers on to this day. We see genocide over religion as well as people who are in tribes that are simply taller people (Rawanda – read Elmore Leonard’s novel Pagan Babies, that includes some on it, horrifying).

So the gist of the issue was that 8 Supreme Court justices decided Carrie Buck was of low intelligence (without any basis; when she was allowed in school she was better than average). As the child of a single mom because the husband had abandoned the family, she was vulnerable. After her mother was confined to a facility for purported “immorality” [pretty sure only women were confined for that] and prostitution [not sure she had another way of making a living], and syphilis [big surprise].

Carrie was sent to live with foster parents, who removed her from school to be treated as a servant. Then the family’s nephew raped Carrie and she become pregnant herself, giving birth to a daughter out of wedlock (it is a really horrible story; the foster parents adopted and got custody of Carrie’s child while she was sent to the home, and were, as I recall abusive of ┬áher child. The daughter died at age eight.

Carrie was deemed “immoral” for having been raped. We have not made much progress on that front. She was a test case by the Nazi sympathizer involved in a move to sterilize for race purity and mentally challenged as well as, shockingly, epileptics.

The short version is that they used her as a test case to validate the right of the State to sterilize people. And the dreadful horrible evil of 8 of 9 old white men decided that the State had a right to sterilize people without their permission and often without their knowledge.

Like other horrible Supreme Court decisions, the completely horrific consequences were not seen as evil at the time, people did not protest. They agreed that this should be done.

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