Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Eugenics as Native removal

After reading this article I cant believe how eugenics was used to promote racism in America. The article examines how eugenics influenced public policies meant to remove Native peoples throughout the Southeast. The Our Lives Exhibit is part of a movement by Native peoples to preserve their histories. By the 1920s, Native Americans became targets of the eugenicist policies because whites at the time were afraid of intermarriages with them. According to Walter Plecker, chief of the Bureau of Vital Statistics, Natives were already tainted by black blood and therefore considered Negroes. During this time Francis Galton, aided work on the idea known as "racial blood" and from this developed a theory of fractional inheritance. Fractional inheritance was used to explain how ones hereditary traits were passed down. This added to the idea of hypo-descent, which classifies a person based on a persons parent of an “inferior” race. These ideas promoted white authority and were used as justification for slavery and displacement of Indians from their land.
By classifying the Native people into a race group it took away from their tribal identity. Plecker during this time also detribalized the Natives by disregarding their surnames in public records. It also makes someone question their identity based on looks and blood. To be classified as Native you needed one quarter of Indian blood. For some during this time who didn’t know their ancestors and looked nothing like what they were racially profiled as it came as a surprise. Geneticist at the time used pedigree analysis (studying inherited traits) and statistical correlations to categorize people. Richard L. Dugdale a geneticist even looked through public records to trace several generations of a family to categorize them as degenerates. During this time in history there was also a fear of immigrants that were coming into the country and the potential of feeblemindedness and criminality that they would bring. Starting in 1919 states started passing sterilization laws but in states such as Virginia sterilization never took place since the health services facilities were limited to whites. But by the 1970s about twenty five thousand native women were sterilized in the Indian Health Service facilities through coercion.
Anthropometric studies were also done on Native to measure their blood quantum based on physical traits. One of the most ridiculous studies I’ve read about so far is by Carl Seltzer who placed a pencil into the subjects hair and then shaked their head vigorously, If the pencil fell out that means the person has real Indian hair...

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