Eugenics in the United States



The history of eugenics in the United States is also an informative source of parallels useful in analysing certain important structures of colonial thought - the way science, its methods of measurement and quantification in general, its (inherent) propensity to set up taxonomies and thus ways of knowing the world, were used and misused for socio-political aims. America at the end of the nineteenth century had become a destination of choice for many European immigrants from the south and east. The country was also dealing with (or denying) the aftermath of the emancipation of its slaves and the genocidal policies in respect of first nation peoples. It was during this period too that restrictive labour policies and legislation would be put in place that would hold for the next thirty years, a result of the famous Pullman strike of 1893.



This was also the period during which immigrant labour leaders had their American citizenship revoked and were repatriated.


It was against this background that the thoroughly unscientific, racist and white supremacist science of eugenics was fostered. Leading figures in the movement would emphatically propagate the standpoint that if southern European immigration continued Americans would “rapidly become darker in pigmentation, smaller in stature, more mercurial, more attached to music and art, more given to crimes of larceny, kidnapping, assault, murder, rape and sex-immorality.”





On top of those fears came further assertions. Taking Madison Grant as a typical example of a eugenicist, he wrote: “The cross between a white man and an Indian is an Indian; the cross between a white man and a Negro is a Negro; the cross between a white man and a Hindu is a Hindu; and the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew.”