Monday, June 30, 2014

Open Letter Calling for a Deadline Extension for Eugenics Victims to Apply for Compensation

June 30, 2014

Contact: Sarah Bufkin, NC NAACP - or 404.285.3413

The North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Movement Release an Open Letter Calling for a Deadline Extension for Eugenics Victims to Apply for Compensation

A copy of the letter is included below and can also be accessed HERE.

RALEIGH, NC -  The North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement are releasing an open letter calling upon Senate Leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Thom Tillis, Gov. Pat McCrory and all legislators in the NC General Assembly to extend the June 30 deadline for victims of the state's sterilization program to apply for the $50,000 compensation set aside for each victim.

In 2013, the General Assembly finally passed a bill that included a $10 million fund to provide restitution for the estimated 5,000 victims of the state's eugenics laws. Anyone who wishes to apply for compensation must submit a formal application by Monday, June 30. As of the middle of June, less than 600 of the estimated 1,800 victims have applied for their compensation.

North Carolina has a moral responsibility to find these men and women, and the Forward Together Movement asks this state legislature to fulfill that responsibility with the urgency it deserves.
The NC NAACP's open letter is included below:

30 June 2014

North Carolina Legislators
16 W. Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27601

Dear Legislators of North Carolina:
The North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement call on you to extend the deadline for victims of the NC eugenics program to 'Apply for Compensation' by a year until June 30, 2015. But a year's extension is the minimum; there should not be a deadline that blocks these victims from claiming their compensation. This proposed $50,000 does not make up for our state forcibly taking their right to bear children, but it does start to make amends of the terrible wrong that was done. And we should not exclude some of these victims from the process with an arbitrary application deadline.

One bill to extend the deadline has already been introduced this session, but the House leadership has left it buried in committee. If state legislators work to extend this deadline, they will show they are serious about making amends. If they do not, we will know that this restitution program is merely a political ploy to get political points in an election year.

This is not a political issue. Eighty-five years ago, the state of North Carolina began preying on poor, marginalized people - many of whom were women of color - and forcibly sterilizing them using race-based logic of so-called social engineering. That eugenics program wasn't stopped until 1974. But our lawmakers have only given victims about a year to file for compensation. They provided no money for an aggressive outreach campaign to find these people, relying instead on the beneficence of nonprofit and advocacy groups to undertake the hard work of locating individuals on the basis of incomplete and long-outdated state records. This arbitrary deadline of one year contradicts the moral obligation to rectify the decades of inhumane treatment. There should be grace in this situation and, therefore, a grace period in this deadline.

About 1,400 living victims of the eugenics program have not applied for the compensation because of lack of state outreach. We ask that you to consider the reasons these victims were chosen for the eugenics program in the first place - they were marginalized, poor and without a voice, and now there has been little to no effort or resources from the state to locate these people and help them prepare their applications. These victims have suffered for years, in some cases enduring immense physical and psychological trauma.

While there should not be a deadline, we call on you at a minimum to extend this deadline by a year until June 30, 2015 and to commit additional energy and resources to an aggressive outreach campaign in the media and at the grassroots level. Let the state be as zealous locating the between two and four thousand victims and their heirs as it was when it tracked them down in their early teens, convinced the eugenics board they were defective people and then removed their reproductive organs. The extension will not significantly delay payments, since according to the present law no one receives payment until July 2015. 

Compensation will not make these victims whole. But it is a sign that the State of North Carolina wishes to repair the injuries it caused some of her citizens.

Please, do the right thing.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
President of the North Carolina NAACP

A PDF version of the letter can be found  HERE and can be accessed on the NC NAACP website. 



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