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Elaine Riddick Was Forcefully Sterilized By The Government For Being Unfit

Elaine Riddick Was Forcefully Sterilized By The Government For Being Unfit

Between 1929 and 1974, about 65, 000 people were sterilized in over 30 American states under orders from the Eugenics board in bid to displace the the mentally ill, diseased, feeble-minded and others deemed undesirable in the quest to achieving a perfect human race.

The movement which in its early years sterilized men and women, progressed to being majorly for sterilizing women and then eventually in its later years to sterilizing black women whom the society considered a high-risk race, capable of touting their perfect human plan. Sexually promiscuous women were sterilized, women with low IQ’s alongside attractive women who they believed could be the downfall of men.

Elaine Riddick lived with alcoholic parents in an all-black North Carolina town. In 1967, Riddick was 13 when a man from their neighborhood raped her  leading to an unwanted pregnancy and so she immediately through the attention of social workers became a point of concern to the Eugenics board.

Five men comprising a state health director and a lawyer from the attorney general’s office declared that Riddick like majority of other black women was feeble-minded” and doomed to “promiscuity. Their decision, a spectrum of the oars of which the board itself was founded, can be traced to the belief of its founder Frank Galton who said; I do not join in the belief that the African is our equal in brain or in heart; I do not think that the average negro cares for his liberty as much as an Englishman, or as a self-born Russian; and I believe that if we can in any fair way, possess ourselves of his services, we have an equal right to utilize them to our advantages.

Photo: David Walter Banks

Galton, a wealthy English man whose family had become rich from slave labor described Eugenics as the self direction of human evolution which would culminate with wiping out the Black population through selective breeding and sterilization.

This was the case of 14 year old Riddick whose illiterate Grandmother – threatened to lose her benefits – had although ignorant of what it entailed signed the consent form for her sterilization. And so Riddick had gone into the labor room on that day in 1968 and had hours after bearing her son on March 5 been sterilized.

“I felt like I was nothing.  It’s like, the people that did this; they took my spirit away from me,” She would say when speaking about the ordeal many years later for although many women had been sterilized only few of them like Riddick had ever been able to speak up.

The sterilization altered the course of her life. She didn’t find out until she was married at 18, during a medical examination and her husband called her barren and useless. The discovery led to further issues that eventually crumbled her marriage.

Riddick and her son, Tony at her court hearing

 She filed for a lawsuit in 1974 aided by the American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina. Her son, Tony Riddick who was in his 40’s in 2010 when Riddick testified before the task force described his mother’s treatment by the state as a total genocide.

“What did God ask her to do? He asked her to be prolific. Be fruitful. Go out and multiply, replenish the Earth,” he said. “And you took all of that, not just away from her, but from other men and women here in this audience. And you did it for reasons you knew were wrong.”

Although the state has apologized to Riddick and offered financial compensation of about $50, 000, she still believes that no apology can erase the fact that America treated a 14 year old, black, rape victim as a criminal.


Featured Image: The Voice Online

References: LA Times and University of Vermont


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Elaine Riddick Was Forcefully Sterilized By The Government For Being Unfit

by First Culture time to read: 3 min