From a June 29 editorial in the Mount Airy News:
Surry Countys two representatives in the General Assembly Sen. Don East and Rep. Sarah Stevens both voted against a measure that would have compensated confirmed victims of the states eugenics program that forcibly sterilized more than 7,000 people.
In so doing, North Carolina, and other states, deprived some of its residents of one of their most basic rights that of giving birth and raising children, of creating a family. And, as so often is the case, it was those most in need of protection who were victimized by their government.
The debate over compensating those victims who are still living has been heated at times, but a bill eventually made its way to the General Assembly that called for each to be paid $50,000.
East this week explained his vote, by saying the compensation does nothing to change history, that the eugenics program, as awful as it was, happened and theres nothing which can be done about it today.
Stevens explained her opposition by stating no other state which practiced a eugenics program has voted to compensate its victims, and she thought there was a bit of greed involved, given that the original compensation package called for $20,000 per victim.
The idea that going from $20,000 to $50,000 shows evidence of greed is, quite frankly, appalling. Were talking about people who had a basic right of individuals taken away from them.
East, however, does raise an interesting argument. At what point does a government have a responsibility to actively seek to compensate those harmed by their forefathers? Do taxpayers today have a responsibility to pay to compensate victims of a practice which occurred before many of those taxpayers were even born?
Yes, those victims deserve something justice for what amounts to state-sponsored crimes against them, compensation, some form of closure. Yet, those in government today, those state residents who had nothing to do with the actions called eugenics, might have a hard time being the ones paying for the crimes of their forefathers. And understandably so.