The Edge of Eugenics

The Edge of Eugenics

Mendoza Legislation AB2072 Nudges California Back to Eugenics

Edwin Black
June 14th 2010

California eugenics has a direct link to Nazi Germany’s war of extermination
against Jews and all other Europeans deemed less worthy than the Aryan
master race. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, American
eugenics launched a campaign to create a white, blue-eyed, blond-haired
master race in America, a biological ideal they called “Nordic.” A key
center for the pseudoscience of eugenics sprang up in California. It was
from California that eugenicists, backed by wealthy philanthropies such as
the Carnegie Institution, created racist pseudo-medical brochures and
proposed legislation to eliminate the existence of all people on earth who
did not resemble the Nordic ideal.

How? Eugenicists wanted to create public gas chambers, marriage prohibition,
concentration camps, and other elimination strategies for those perceived as
“disabled” or less than the eugenic version of perfect. Legislation was
crafted to slowly implement their goals on a state-by-state level.

Euthanasia laws were introduced in Ohio by the social worker professions as
early as 1908—and defeated. Marriage restriction and concentration camp
confinement laws for those with vision problems were proffered in New York
by the ophthalmology profession—and defeated.

But through an extensive and pernicious campaign of fake science and
academic fraud at the highest echelon, eugenicists were able to achieve
forced sterilization laws in twenty-seven states. Ultimately, some 65,000
Americans were coercively sterilized, many without knowing it. Often the
reasons were no more than gossip about moral character, presumed illiteracy,
poverty, or the commission of a petty economic crime. In 1909, California
became the third state to adopt such laws and over the coming few decades,
about a third, and sometimes more, of all these 65,000 forced sterilizations
occurred in California. In 1933 alone, at least 1,278 coercive
sterilizations were performed in the state, 700 on women.

The state’s two leading sterilization mills in 1933 were Sonoma State Home
with 388 operations and Patton State Hospital with 363 operations. Other
sterilization centers included Agnews, Mendocino, Napa, Norwalk, Stockton,
and Pacific Colony state hospitals.

In the twenties, Adolf Hitler studied American eugenic theories and
California’s statutes and emulated them in Nazi Germany with great ferocity
and velocity, renaming the Nordic type as “Aryan.” In “Mein Kampf,”
published in 1925, Hitler quoted American eugenic ideology and openly
displayed a thorough knowledge of American eugenics. “There is today one
state,” wrote Hitler, “in which at least weak beginnings toward a better
conception (of immigration) are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model
German Republic, but the United States.”

Hitler proudly told his comrades just how closely he followed the progress
of the American eugenics movement. “I have studied with great interest,” he
told a fellow Nazi, “the laws of several American states concerning
prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would, in all
probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock.” Hitler
even wrote a fan letter to American eugenics leader Madison Grant calling
his race-based eugenics book, “The Passing of the Great Race,” his
“bible.” The deaf were among the Reich’s earliest targets for elimination
and covered by the first wave of Nazi legislation in 1933.

In 1934, as Germany’s sterilizations were accelerating beyond 5,000 per
month, the California eugenics leader C. M. Goethe, upon returning from
Germany where he sat on a Nazi eugenics court, ebulliently bragged to a
Pasadena colleague, “You will be interested to know that your work has
played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals
who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that
their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought . . . I
want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of
your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 6
million people.”

Many thought eugenics was a buried part of California’s past. Now it seems
that new legislation, AB2072, may nudge the state back to the slippery
eugenic slope. The target of opportunity is the state’s deaf community. They
are an easy target and find it hard to stand up to the powerful medical
economic interest of the audiology profession and the cochlear ear implant
industry who are lobbying hard for AB2072, a law that will create a climate
that can quickly subhumanize, marginalize, and medically modernize an entire
cultural group out of existence. This porous ill-defined legislation,
sponsored by Assemblymember Tony Mendoza (56th District)—probably without
thinking through the impact—has for all intents and purposes identified the
deaf as social misfits that require state intervention.

Mendoza’s legislation calls for every newborn to be tested. Families with a
deaf infant are to receive an “informative” brochure—devoid of oversight and
detached from the wishes of the deaf community—that will in realistic terms
be under the control of the audiology industry. This brochure will in
essence sell cochlear implants as a medical marvel that will obsolete the
deaf and their well-developed culture of community. This has been a goal of
the eugenics world and its tax-exempt foundations since eugenics pioneer
Alexander Graham Bell—a leader of the early eugenic societies—spotlighted
the deaf for elimination.

But there’s a problem. The deaf only look like an easy target. They only
seem like freaks to be eliminated. In fact, they have a well-developed and
distinct culture of communication using sign language and they do not wish
to be exiled from their own unborn children and grandchildren. They respond
to email in moments and faster than any newsman. They command a lyrical
sense of the English language that is at once poetic and fiercely precise.
They are wonderful artists. Their technologic world of video phones and
other adaptive equipment became commonplace when Skype and Instant Messaging
were still being invented. They may be deaf, but they correctly hear the
hymn of eugenics in AB2072, and they heard it sooner than Assemblyman

Butch Zein, a fifth generation Bay Area deaf man told me, “The fact that
there will be no oversight, and that the organizations will have free rein
to modify the brochure later on, reeks of what had happened during Nazi
Reich when Germany lost control of oversight and allowed Hitler and his SS
group to develop propaganda against the Jews. That’s the parallel I am
seeing right now. It’s their intent to wipe out “Deaf” by encouraging
parents that their deaf child can become hearing when in fact they knew
it’s not true and that the technology is far from perfect.”

No cultural, ethnic, religious, or other special group in California should
be targeted by legislation designed to obsolete their existence. AB2072 does
exactly this and Mendoza may go down in history as the founding father of
California’s return to eugenics. If he does not know this now, he may learn
it soon. Surely, once the brochure law goes into effect, the amendments,
enhancements, and enforcements will gain velocity down the eugenic slope. If
this brochure is not that important, why are the million-dollar corporations
and foundations lined up to so enthusiastically support it?

Once the deaf are gone, then it is visually impaired, then the obese, and
then perhaps immigrants, and then me. After me, guess who’s next?

Edwin Black is the author of the bestselling, award-winning IBM and the
Holocaust and his book on American eugenics, War Against the Weak. He will
be lecturing on eugenics in Sacramento June 15 and 16.


1 comment for “The Edge of Eugenics

  1. Von Allen
    June 16, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    I skimmed this article and agree with Mr. Black that the mainstream culture perceives the Deaf as a community that needs to be fixed. It is sad of course, but the problem is caused by the Deaf who are by and large an underground invisible culture. I live in Austin Texas which is home to an amazing School for the Deaf and yet I rarely see Deaf in public interacting with hearing. There is NO presence of Deaf on Craigslist which is UBIQUITOUS for hearing. If the Deaf want to be counted, they need to INTERACT with the mainstream culture. Becoming visible.

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