We think of “ethnic cleansing” as something bad that happens elsewhere in the world, forgetting that a strong eugenics movement arose in the U.S. less than a century ago. This movement not only sought to restrict immigration of southern and eastern Europeans (who were not Nordic), but also led to a program of mass sterilization for the purpose of eradicating from the population the weak, the infirm (especially mentally), as well as inferior races. Sterilization continued late into the 20th century.
One leader of the eugenics movement was Madison Grant, whose book “The Passing of the Great Race” was lauded by Adolf Hitler as “his bible”. It was only when the horrors of the “final solution” became apparent in the concentration camps that the U.S. eugenics movement lost favor. Substitute our previous immigration fears of eastern and southern Europeans with middle easterners and Latinos today, and one wonders how little has changed.
How many of us believe in the credo, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” that is inscribed on a plaque located within the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty? Does it still speak for us? I hope so.
David Lassen King, Richland
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