Our View: Shame in the past has much to teach future
But because no amount of money can compensate the living victims sterilized under the authority of the N.C. Eugenics Board, a task force authorized by Gov. Beverly Perdue was right in its recent findings. Not only did the task force allocate a $50,000 payment per living victim, but it included mental health services and continued funding for traveling and permanent exhibits highlighting the dark history of the project.
For the record, this program was the state's attempt to eradicate undesirable characteristics from the general population. Some of those undesirable characteristics of the more than 7,500 North Carolinians selected for the eugenics program between 1929 to 1974: poor, undereducated, institutionalized, sick and disabled. Twenty-six of those selected are identified as being from Watauga County.
That's a frightening, all-too-encompassing list that would include many of us and our family members were the program in effect today.
We applaud Perdue's efforts to bring the state's forced sterilization program to light following initial in-depth media reports in 2002. We also praise the work of the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation in what will be a tireless effort to identify the thousands of men and women selected to have their human rights discarded.
But there is much work to be done. Sadly, locating victims is an arduous process for which there few clues. Fewer than 100 living victims are yet identified. Locating more victims must be a top priority — not to ensure they get a government-sanctioned payoff, but to identify those who most need the mental health and other services, which may have been denied or unavailable until now.
North Carolina's past cannot be unwritten, and this sad fact makes it all the more important that we care for our present and educate our future.