When Alabama Stood Up for Freedom
Posted by Richard Conniff on May 16, 2012
Alabama is on the brink of passing a highly punitive law against immigrants, and it reminds me of an item from my eugenics story that ended up on the cutting room floor. In the 1930s, when eugenicists at Yale and other leading intellectual institutions were still defending forced sterilization, Alabama stood up for freedom and the fundamental concepts of American life.
Here’s what I wrote:
Even as late as 1940, when the Germans had sterilized 400,000 people, Yale professor Ellsworth Huntington could applaud “the way sterilization is being gradually accepted as a necessary measure for preserving the health of the community.” This was five years after the governor of Alabama, a state not ordinarily known for its progressive thinking, rejected a proposed sterilization law*, declaring that “the country people of Alabama do not want this law; they do not want Alabama, as they term it, Hitlerized.”
Maybe it’s time now for Alabama to remember its own best impulses. Here’s an excerpt from an editorial about the proposed immigration law in today’s New York Times:
The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of Arizona’s immigration law, whose noxious spirit and letter Alabama has copied. A ruling in that case is expected in June, and could unleash more Arizona-style damage in other states. Meanwhile, the two Republican architects of Alabama’s immigration law, Micky Hammon in the House and Scott Beason in the Senate, are pressing on. And The Associated Press reported this month that Alabama farmers are planting less and shifting to mechanized crops as the reality of an immigrant labor shortage — the high price of xenophobia — sinks in.
* Kline, W., Building a Better Race, p. 80
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