When talking about eugenics, it’s important to also talk about exactly who was in the group of people most often deemed “undesirable.” It’s a long list.
According to PBS, the “undesirables” of America who were targeted by the eugenics movement were immigrant populations, the poor, people of color, unwed mothers, the mentally ill, and the disabled. It wasn’t just talk, either — starting in 1909, the state of California conducted somewhere around 20,000 forced sterilizations to stop people in these groups from reproducing. That was over the course of a shocking 70 years, and California wasn’t the only state doing it. Take Mississippi. It was so common for teaching hospitals to demonstrate hysterectomies on unwilling black women that there was a name for it: Mississippi appendectomies. And some of those women? They were girls, including children just 9-years-old.
Throughout the decades, The Jerusalem Post says the “unfit” included those labeled as “feeble-minded,” anyone with criminal tendencies, anyone who was gay, alcoholics, the deaf, the blind, and even those found to be “lazy.” They were all thought to be passing on these traits to their offspring, so the solution was simply to make sure they couldn’t have children.