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Eva Justin from the Racial Hygiene and Demographic Biology Research Unit measures the skull of a Romani woman.

You would think that living in the twenty-first century, we would have progressed beyond the barbarity of eugenics programs in the U.S. in previous centuries. That assumption would be false.

Eugenics–the systematic implementation of social Darwinian procedures such as sterilization and segregation in order to “purify” the human gene pool–complemented the ideology behind the Nazi Holocaust. Meanwhile in the U.S., medical professionals were sterilizing those deemed genetically “inferior” while legislators and police were enforcing racial segregation. We have now moved forward to a point in which science, cultural consciousness, and law are in agreement that eugenics is destructive and ethically reprehensible.

Nevertheless, a recent investigation into California prisons reveals that some Americans remain behind the times. It has been confirmed that 39 female inmates were illegally sterilized over the last eight years at Folsom Women’s Facility, Central California Women’s Facility, Valley State Prison for Women, and the California Institution for Women. Such women were not given proper consent. The procedure, in effect, was coerced on them. Consequently, the health committee at the California legislature has moved to pass a bill banning all future sterilizations of inmates unless required in a medical emergency.

North Carolina isn’t faring much better. With a sketchy past regarding eugenics programs, the state has yet to compensate its past victims of sterilization despite promises. This past Monday was the deadline for victims to file claims and apply for compensation. The NAACP believes that the state is still doing an insufficient job, requesting that the deadline be extended as only 630 out of 1,800 victims who may still be alive have submitted proper claims and paperwork to the state Office of Justice for Sterilization Victims. Let’s hope this request meets with a favorable response and that our nation can move further forward and “not one step back” as the Moral Monday mantra states. Because in California and North Carolina, we remain more than one step back.

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Hobby Lobby1. The unconstitutional application of religious liberty: The original purpose of religious liberty is defined as the separation of church and state, ensuring the protection of both through mutual autonomy. Health care coverage is an entity of the state. By permitting Hobby Lobby the refusal to cover certain forms of birth control on religious grounds in its female employees’ health care plans, the Supreme Court is essentially giving the same blessing of religious liberty to a corporate entity that the law permits for private faith. Based on such reasoning, a company run by Jehovah’s Witnesses could write blood transfusions out of their health care plans and companies run by fundamentalist Christians could write vaccines out of theirs.

2. Blatant hypocrisy: Hobby Lobby’s excuse to refuse coverage for certain forms of women’s birth control was framed as religious opposition to what they falsely named “abortion”–specific contraceptives and devices that prevent a zygote from being implanted in the uterine wall. However, as noted by Mother Jones in a recent investigation, Hobby Lobby has financial ties not only to the manufacturing of said forms of birth control but even to drugs used for inducing abortions. Hobby Lobby has stock holdings in companies that manufacture these products. This is blatant hypocrisy and reveals that the true motive wasn’t religious conviction at all but corporate greed.

3. It’s counterproductive: As noted by pro-life progressive and faith activist Brian McLaren in a recent article, the Hobby Lobby decision–while being hailed as a victory against abortion by many in conservative Christian faith communities–is actually counterproductive to such a cause in that it does nothing to reduce or prevent real abortions. In fact, by making it more financially difficult for female employees to acquire birth control that, scientifically, does not constitute abortion, Hobby Lobby is eliminating assistance that would actually reduce abortions. Hence, the decision is not in any way a victory against abortion. To the contrary, it deceives Hobby Lobby’s religious supporters into making abortion a more viable option through the withdrawal of financial support for significant forms of birth control such as emergency contraception.

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As illustrated by Thomas Mills with Politics NC, the state budget will inevitably reflect the ideological interests and goals of the men in charge of our state legislature rather than the actual needs of real people. He writes of their personal motives:

The GOP is only unified about two things. First, they want to make sure that the rich and big corporations don’t have to help close the budget hole that the legislature gave us. That’s a burden for the rest of us to shoulder. Second, they want to give teachers pay raises. And that’s to protect their seats by appearing to support public education. Not many people are buying it but that’s their story and they’re sticking to it. 

Having connections with big money and corporate interests, our legislative leaders are not working to serve the people but to serve big business and the “free market.” Mills further states:

The competing budgets are a reflection of the men who run the legislature. The senate budget is an ideological document hell bent on protecting the free market principals and social Darwinism that Phil Berger has so vigorously embraced. He’s a Calvin Coolidge Republican who believes in Coolidge’s famous quote, “The business of America is business.” What Coolidge Republicans like to forget is that his policies led to the Wall Street crash of 1929 that, in turn, led to the Great Depression.

Will the new budget help us or harm us? Our leaders are not interested: their main concern is upholding the economic privilege of North Carolina’s wealthiest, even if that means compromising the needs of the majority of its citizens.

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May_Day_Immigration_March_LA37As more and more “illegal” children are held in detention at the border, mistreated, mocked, and abused, our President continues to “solve” the crisis by deporting them.

These children end up in detention for various reasons. Sometimes, as they are attempting with their families to cross over, they lose them in the desert and end up on their own. Sometimes they are offered opportunities for sneaking in by drug-smugglers. Sometimes, after waiting for many years to immigrate with their parents, they are prevented from entering on the basis that they are no longer considered children.

It is a great injustice that citizens of the US, who consider themselves to be “civilized,” would engage in demoralizing and devaluing the lives of socioeconomically disadvantaged children. Apart from the deportations, which are unjust enough, those who guard our borders have also dehumanized these children through racist mockery, general mistreatment with bad living conditions and inadequate healthcare, and physical and sexual abuse . These innocent children are merely seeking better lives beyond the violence and poverty they have experienced elsewhere when they are not pursuing reunification with their families.

To make matters worse, Border Patrol agents in Texas were warned by an assistant patrol agent not to speak with journalists who are seeking to obtain more information on the crisis. As in the case with Guantanamo Bay, some government officials have a record for lacking transparency in areas where humanitarian crimes are being committed.

Critics of this humanitarian injustice directed at immigrant victims are encouraging the Obama administration to implement  a program of affirmative relief that will dramatically decrease the number of deportations taking place each day. Let’s hope these efforts bear fruit in the very near future as the current situation is clearly intolerable.

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My_Heroes_-_Maya_Angelou_connected_with_countless_people_through_her_powerful_poetry

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

This excerpt, taken from Maya’s Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise,” were the words spoken by her grandson, Elliot Jones, at the start of her memorial service.

Maya Angelou’s life and legacy were celebrated on Saturday, June 7, in Wait Chapel at Wake Forest University. A North Carolinian, she passed away on May 28 in her home in Winston-Salem at the age of 86.

At the age of 6, Nicole Johnson, Maya’s great granddaughter, declared that “people don’t love my great grandmother because she is famous. They love her because she loves them.” Indeed, both Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama stated that Maya had a significant impact on them through empowering their sense of identity as black women, helping to lead them to where they are today.

Bill Clinton spoke of how he discovered Maya in law school through her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. He was “struck dumb.” Much of Maya’s legacy stems from this book–a coming-of-age story that chronicles her rise from trauma in a culture of racism and misogyny to self-empowerment and a new identity. Having experienced the trauma of rape, she analogizes it to the racist brutality directed against her ethnic community. Like the caged bird that sings, literature and language are discovered as tools for transcending cultural oppression. Read More