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Reflection on The Hidden Brain Podcast and A Disability History, chapter 6

lizzieryann's picture

I was really horrified to hear about the story of Carrie Buck and three generations of her small family: Emma, Carrie, and Vivian. The idea that three generations of “genetic flaws” presented a strong case for sterilization is so disturbing and difficult tocomprehend. Especially since eugenicists ignored any facts that did not fit this “feebleminded narrative.” Specifically, the podcast mentioned that they ignored Carrie’s normal school record. Two of the main reasons why Carrie and Emma were described as “feeble-minded” were since they were supported by charity and living in the worst neighborhoods. Thereby, it was determined that "three generations of imbelies is enough." Upon doing some more research on sterilization, I found that most of the people who were sterilized came from poor or working-class backgrounds, like Carrie Buck’s. This led me to realize the prominent role that class played in sterilization. Specifically, patients from well-off families were able to afford care at home or in private facilities. Thus, they rarely underwent sterilization. In practice, forced sterilization efforts targeted the least-powerful people: minority women, immigrants, the physically and mentally disabled, and the poor. Today, we still see this trend in which some lives are valued more than others. Specifically, COVID-19 and emergency situations has shown the devaluation of the lives of people with disabilities and people of color. Thus, to women, people of color, disabled individuals, and others with multiple marginalized identities, Buck v. Bell is perennial. The reality is that POC, disabled indiviuals, and others with marginalized identities experience medical violence and involuntary treatment. Further, Buck v. Bell is a reminder of how ludicrous it is to place more value on one life over another.