When Michele Obama remarked during the 2008 Presidential campaign that, for the first time, she was proud of her country, she was largely discredited by the Right for not having met the patriotism quota. By their estimation, if you’re not oozing the red, white and blue or pinning old glory snug to your lapel, the terrorists win. Except that, black people have existed for far too long at the receiving end of both state and federal government malfeasance to slurp down that falsehood.
The New York Times reported on Friday that North Carolina ran a eugenics program, whereby “oversexed” and supposedly unintelligent people were sterilized by the state. And this was not some flash in the pan that can be written off with the trite “mistakes were made” line. This largely subjective and well-funded program lasted from 1924-1974. For fifty years, a pet project promoted by wealthy interests took away reproductive rights of young people, and not surprisingly, minorities were disproportionately impacted.
I was saddened, but not shocked at the NYT article and I’m sure that if you shared these revelations with Michele Obama, she wouldn’t be shocked either. The idea that North Carolina, California, and Virginia sterilized people – most times accompanied by the threat that if they didn’t have the surgery their welfare benefits would be revoked – is not news to us.
It is the Right wing who, on one hand pretends to fear big government, but on the other, views any politician who refuses to boast an extreme brand of American zealotry as treasonous. There’s a contradiction in that political philosophy that black folks recognize.
It’s simply wrong to characterize black folks as unpatriotic because we know this country – the good, bad and ugly –more intimately than you do. As more and more of these stories of state and federal government agencies behaving immorally begin to emerge, the more I think the Right owes the First Lady an apology.