OldSoul : North Carolina Eugenics Board Victims Fight For Justice

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North Carolina Eugenics Board Victims Fight For Justice


"So what am I worth?" she asks the five people seated at the long table before her. "The kids that I did not have, COULD not have. What are THEY worth?"

"Priceless," Tony Riddick whispers as he gently rubs his mother's back.

Elaine Riddick has been asking these same questions, in one forum or another, for the past 40 years. This most recent appearance in late June was before the Governor's Task Force to Determine the Method of Compensation for Victims of North Carolina's Eugenics Board.

As far as Riddick is concerned, she tells the panel, she was raped twice. Once by the man who fathered her son, and again by the Eugenics Board of the State of North Carolina, which deemed her, at age 14, unfit to procreate.

"I am NOT feebleminded," she shouts, turning to face the packed hearing room. "I've never BEEN feebleminded."

"No," says her son, standing beside her behind the podium.

Tears streaming down her face, she says, "They cut me open like I was a HOG."

Between 1929 and 1974, North Carolina sterilized more than 7,600 individuals in the name of "improving" the state's human stock. By the time the program was halted, the majority of those neutered were young, black, poor women – like Riddick.
From her decision to sue the state in federal court nearly four decades ago to this most recent baring of her soul, she has refused to simply fade from view.

World War II had left her father, Army veteran Thomas Cleveland Riddick, an abusive, alcoholic, "shell-shocked" husk of a man; her mother, Pearline Warren Riddick, was in the women's prison for assaulting her husband. The Director of Public Welfare for Perquimans County had taken custody of Elaine, and Woodard was receiving government surplus food for the girl.
One Sunday evening, around dusk, she was walking home alone from a party when a man jumped out of the bushes of an abandoned house about two blocks from her grandmother's. Clapping one hand over her mouth and twisting her arm behind her back with the other, he led her to a nearby car and raped her.

At 13, Riddick knew nothing about where babies came from, let alone morning sickness. So when she became ill while picking cucumbers one day, she told her grandmother she thought someone had poisoned her.

When Woodard finally learned that her granddaughter was pregnant, Riddick was afraid to tell the truth. She said the father was an older boy from nearby Edenton whom she'd met at a party.

After Thomas Anthony Riddick was delivered on March 5, 1968, Riddick remembers awaking to find her abdomen swathed in bandages.

What she didn't know was that a month and a half earlier, five men sitting around a table across the state in the capital had decided that Riddick's first child should be her last.

The word "eugenics" comes from the Greek for "well-born."

By the early 20th century, most U.S. states had eugenics programs, and more than 30 enacted laws mandating surgical sterilization for certain individuals. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 people were sterilized in the country before the practice was discredited.

On Jan. 23, 1968, members of the North Carolina Eugenics Board met in Room 539 of the state Education Building in Raleigh to consider the latest petitions for "operation of sterilization or asexualization." Among them was Case No. 8: "Delores Elaine Riddick – (N) – Perquimans County." The "N" stood for Negro
Board members were given a summary of each case. The board secretary would place the complete files in the center of the table, should a member need additional information before making a decision.
.
Social worker Marion Payne noted that the family had been receiving public assistance for much of the previous decade, and that both parents were alcoholics. A doctor had assessed Riddick as "feebleminded."
"Because of Elaine's inability to control herself, and her promiscuity – there are community reports of her `running around' and out late at night unchaperoned, the physician has advised sterilization," the final recommendation read. "This will at least prevent additional children from being born to this girl who cannot care for herself, and can never function in any way as a parent."

And so, after delivering Riddick's son, Dr. William Bindeman clipped, resected and cauterized her fallopian tubes.
One of the most striking findings was the eugenics program's apparent racial and sexual bias. During the program's first decade, 79 percent of those sterilized were white; by the time Riddick's case was decided, 64 percent of the operations were being performed on black females.

The rest: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/15/eugenics-victims-north-carolina_n_927065.html
 
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