NC Republicans block compensation for sterilization victims


Elaine Riddick in her home in Atlanta, today
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

There was a time when over half of the states in the U.S. had eugenics programs. Only one state continued after the revelations of Nazi atrocities at the end of World War 2. North Carolina.

The North Carolina Senate rejected a plan to compensate victims of a mass sterilization plan that targeted mostly poor minorities for decades in the 20th century…Senate Republicans refused to support the measure put forth by the House to set aside $10 million in the state budget for compensation, which would have given victims $50,000 each. The move would have made North Carolina the first state to compensate eugenics victims…

North Carolina ran one of the country’s most active eugenics programs, targeting people who were poor and undereducated, and those with physical or mental disabilities. The North Carolina Eugenics Board, a five-person panel, made its decisions in the name of social welfare…

Elaine Riddick, 58, was one of the victims. Pregnant after she was raped at age 14, Riddick was sterilized without her knowledge when she went to a North Carolina hospital to give birth to her son in 1968. Years later, she learned what had happened to her

Deemed “promiscuous” and “feebleminded” by a social worker at the hospital, Riddick, who came from a black family on welfare, was recommended to the state for sterilization. Riddick’s illiterate grandmother was told that they were doing a “procedure” that was necessary to help the young girl; she signed the consent papers with an X. The state authorized and paid for the procedure, and without her consent or even her knowledge, Riddick was sterilized shortly after she gave birth…

“I was raped twice,” Elaine Riddick said, “once by the perpetrator and once by the state of North Carolina.”

North Carolina Republicans offer up their worship of the almighty dollar as key to their rejection of compensation. Some admit to concern over extending responsibility to all political crimes. Their biggest fear is that they might have to repay victims of all the crimes committed by the state against ordinary citizens.

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