So far, I’ve written five posts where I mention or discuss race and eugenics, although I may have briefly touched on the idea of eugenics in other earlier posts: Race & Racism, Slavery & Eugenics, Part 2, Black Superiority, and Racial Reality Tunnel. The first post listed (and the first in order of being posted) only briefly mentions eugenics so as to dismiss it from the central point of my thoughts. The other four posts directly consider eugenics and its implications for the American racial order.
Out of curiosity, I Googled these search terms: slavery, eugenics, and miscegenation. You might think that hundreds or even thousands of results might come up. But that isn’t the case. Only 22 results were given. Of these, there was an interesting Wikipedia article on slave breeding in the United States and a few other articles worth reading (here, here, here, and here). On a related note, there is also a thorough Wikipedia article on eugenics in the United States and a small section of a Wikipedia article about compulsory sterilization in the United States.
The last of the anti-mescegenation laws were overturned only in 1967. That is 8 years before I was born, 22 years after my mom was born, 25 years after my dad was born, and 2 years after my parents were married. Just imagine that. When my parents married, it would still have been illegal in some states for them to have been married if they had been legally determined to have been of different races. My parents are old enough to remember what America was like during the height of Jim Crow in the 1950s. My dad even remembers Jim Crow laws from when he visited his maternal grandmother in the Deep South where he and his brother wondered about the water fountains with signs that said “Colored”.
Also, consider that the last forced sterilization happened in 1981. Prior to that, over 65,000 forced sterilizations were done all across the United States. These weren’t just done to minorities, but that was one of their major targets.
This is all still fresh in the minds of many Americans. Many blacks who voted for the first black president didn’t even have the right to vote for much of their early life. The victims of Jim Crow, of anti-miscegenation laws and forced sterilizations are still with us today and they are a significant portion of the population. Heck, the last Civil War veteran was still alive when my parents were growing up (around when my dad would have been starting high school) and there still is a child of a Civil War veteran who is presently living (last I heard) and receiving a Civil War pension.
One point I made in my posts about race and eugenics is how it applies to the human biodiversity (HBD) view of recent human history and evolution. I mention how HBDers like hbdchick like to discuss the manorial system which allowed feudal lords to decide who could marry and so was one of the earliest somewhat systematic attempt at eugenics. I don’t know that it was the intention of feudal lords to breed a better human, but HBDers believe that was the result in the creation of a specific genetic inheritance for large areas of Western Europe.
I must give credit to hbdchick. Her posts are heavy on the data and she makes a very strong case for this, intentional or not, (proto-)eugenics practice of social/genetics engineering. HBDers like hbdchick, however, are less upfront about how this eugenics past could or should apply to our present. I doubt most of them are willing to go back to a time of anti-miscegenation laws and forced sterilizations (whether in terms of slavery or Jim Crow), but it is less than clear what they see as the practical implications of their racialist ideology. I would guess that some of them at least favor heavy-handed segregation through isolationist or semi-isolationist immigration laws and maybe some old school repatriation of unwanted or ‘illegal’ populations.
Vagueness or obfuscation aside, I do think HBDers make a good argument and I think it should be taken very seriously. I take it so seriously that I extend their argument into even more recent history. I see all of slavery and Jim Crow as a centuries-long eugenics program. It wasn’t always systematic in its application and its success is questionable at best, but it must be considered in its totality. As I’ve pointed out, the highly atypical bimodal distribution of racial genetics in the United States offers strong evidence for at least partial success of this state-sanctioned eugenics.
I honestly don’t know what to think of a lot of this. I’m a proponent of civil rights, both in terms of social freedoms and individual liberties. Yes, oppressive laws and practices are bad. But the world is becoming increasingly complex.
Between GMOs and DNA screening, we are truly entering a brave new world of genetic engineering. It always comes down to who is making the choice and who is suffering (or benefiting) from the consequence. Is embryonic eugenics all that much different from Spartans throwing their unwanted babies off of cliffs? I don’t know. But just imagine if feudal lords and slave-owners had the genetic knowledge and ability we have today. When HBDers look at the data about the past, the present real world implications are stark.
It gets me wondering, as it gets many people wondering. Certainly, it has caused more than a few fiction writers to wonder, from Philip K. Dick to Margaret Atwood.
How do our potential futures reflect our past? If we don’t learn from the past, what might we repeat? What if society finally succeeded in creating separate races of humans, what would that mean? And if some powerful nation such as China took up such a project, who would stop them? Is this dystopian vision an inevitable reality? Is a genetically engineered future necessarily dark and oppressive? Will humans ever learn to use our power responsibly?
What motivates my thinking is a single insight that, as far as I can tell, is original. Like others, I keep repeating that race isn’t biologically real. However, unlike others, I argue that race could be made biologically real. It matters not if it merely began as a social construct and opponents are naive to dismiss the power of beliefs such as these.
I wonder why I haven’t come across this insight before. What is so unusual about it? Why does it go against so much of the polarized debate about race and racism? To my mind, this insight naturally follows from the disagreement between the race realists and social constructionists, a bridging of the divide that may not make either side happy. To argue that there was an at least partially successful American eugenics project to create a black race is about as taboo as it gets when it comes to political correctness.
Eugenics in general rarely gets much attention in the mainstream media. There is something in all of this that our society is still afraid to face, even as it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore. It is the territory of the dark imagination, of unmentionable possibilities.