Letters to the Editor, April 16

Apr. 15, 2014 @ 10:59 AM

Seeking sterilization victims

For nearly half a decade, North Carolina sterilized those citizens it thought were unfit to bear children.  Victims included minorities, the mentally disabled and residents of state-run institutions. The state’s eugenics program did not end until well after the “science” of eugenics was exposed as pseudoscience and the Holocaust gave the world an example of institutionalized eugenics in action.

Now, new legislation offers financial compensation to the surviving victims of the program, which represents a shameful chapter in the state’s history.  Many attorneys who are members of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice are offering their services for free to victims who want to file a claim.

In the 45 years from 1929 to 1974, nearly 7,600 North Carolinians were sterilized by force, coercion or choice.  Of those individuals, 85 percent were female and 40 percent were minorities including African Americans and American Indians. In the late 1950s the focus of the sterilization program changed from people living in state-run institutions to African American people.

While the exact number of victims still alive today is unknown, the State Center for Health Statistics recently estimated as many as 1,800 victims are alive today.

If you were a victim of the program or if you know a friend or loved one was sterilized by the state, I strongly urge you to please call NCAJ or please reach out to me.  We can help you or put you in contact with someone who can.  

Valerie Johnson,

North Carolina Advocates for Justice

Look at other countries

I’d like to thank Jamie Huff for his letter objecting to my assessment of our justice system and society’s response to people who have “paid their debt” to society.  It gives me a chance to take another shot.

He objected to my observation that a little maturity could do much for a man.  The idea that you take a different approach to life when you are in your teens and 20s compared to 10 or 20 years later must be lost on him.  He decries the reduction of church attendance in America yet seems blind to the fact that Jesus himself told a robber being crucified beside him that he would be in paradise with him this day.  If Mr. Huff is the public face of modern-day Christianity, it’s no wonder church attendance is declining.  Even heathens recognize fairness.

Crime is at its lowest point since a peak in the 1980s yet we now lock up 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Studies show a distinct and dramatic decrease in crime in various nations some 20 years after lead was banned in gasoline. Lead in paint has a similar effect.  Could having clean air and clean water be our most important crime-fighting tool?  There was a decrease in violent crime 15-20 years after abortions were made legal. Bringing an unwanted child into the world can lead to trouble, but means nothing to some religious zealots.

Look at the way some other countries do their business.  We aren’t that smart.

Larry Bumgardner

Durham