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People like Peter Singer aren't being cancelled-that's scary

Anita Zhu's picture

The NPR podcast about the sterilization of women covers a lot of horrifying stuff. I am aware of the inhumane practices of mental asylums back in the day, since I did an internship last summer doing research on the racist practices in asylums in the pre-Civil War era. Patients were often isolated from others and physically constricted using straps and other tools, and the patients who experienced the worst treatment were those in public asylums that were overcrowded and underfunded. But I didn't know about the practice of sterilization in asylums, though, unfortunately, it doesn't surprise me at this point. The mentally ill are one of the most vulnerable populations, not to mention the fact that people who were deemed to be "insane" or "deranged" were often those of lower social standing. The podcast emphasizes that Native American and African-American women, immigrants, the physically and mentally ill, and the poor were disproportionately targeted. It targets vulnerable people, and takes away power by, essentially, killing off (or preventing the existence) of certain populations. 

This leads me to think that eugenics is a form of discrimination, but a much scarier form because of the "positive" arguments that come with it. You don't like a certain trait in a person, so you make it so they never have children who share those traits. And instead of saying that it's because you don't like that trait, you say that it's because it's for the good of the whole. Utilitarianism at its' finest (/s). If someone like Peter Singer can promote eugenics and not get internet-cancelled, then who's to say that people won't necessarily disagree with him? That's a really scary thought. 


jogengo's picture

Hey Anita!

I can also say that the podcast was incredibly disturbing to me. I think many of us know the general atrocities committed against those held in institutions, but many also fail to realize how commonplace these facilities were. For example, the chapter we read for Tuesday spoke of an institution in Katonah, NY which is very close to where I live and I did not know that existed there. It is really scary to consider the general support for these practices and how the scientific and eugenic "experts" weaponized the common person's lack of knowledge relating to the topic and took advantage of that to deceive them. I think, now, it's very important for the population to all gain an understanding of what really happened at institutions all over the country in order for the present and future to be corrected and implement meaningful changes and try our best to right these wrongs. I think a good place to start would be to stop using some of these institutions are tourist destinations for "haunted" houses and things of that nature. I feel as though that is incredibly disrespectful to those who suffered and struggled within those walls. Thanks for your post!


clas's picture

where does Singer advocate eugenics? i've seen people say this, but from having read his work, it looks like a serious misrepresentation of his views.