Document 17D: Elmer A. Carter, "Eugenics for the Negro," Birth Control Review, 16, no. 6 (June 1932): 169-70.



[p. 169]

Eugenics for the Negro

By ELMER A. CARTER

IT IS extremely unfortunate that the question of the Negro's fitness to survive in modern civilization should so often have been approached from the standpoint of comparative population growth. For a number of years well-meaning statisticians have indulged in the more or less popular pastime of predicting the exact date when the disappearance of the complete Negro from the American scene would occur. Basing their prognostications on the Negro's mortality rate as compared with that of the white population, they have seen the solution of the vexatious Negro problem achieved by the mere passing of time. And not a few anthropologists and sociologists have valiantly maintained that the difference in Negro and white mortality rates is conclusive evidence of the innate inferiority of the Negro.

   It is doubtless because of this emphasis placed on comparative numbers, that the leaders of Negro life have been tardy in embracing a social procedure which would seem at first sight to have as its ultimate purpose a conscious collaboration with those forces which were dooming the Negro to extinction. The idea of birth control, popularly conceived by Negro as by whites as the limitation of offspring, could not find a quick response in a group which has been led to believe that its racial status was dependent primarily on its ability to increase and multiply.

   Not that the practice of birth control is wholly absent from the Negro group, even though Negro leadership has for the most part been reluctant to advocate this procedure as a solution for any of the problems which confront their fellows in America. Birth control as practiced today among Negroes is distinctly dysgenic. On the higher economic levels, Negroes have long since limited the number of their offspring, following in the footsteps of the higher classes of white America. Although statistics are not readily available, it would appear that the Negro, aware of the tremendous handicaps which his children must face under the most favorable conditions, is even more impelled to limit their number than his white compatriots similarly placed. Therein lies the danger, for Negroes who by virtue of their education and capacity are best able to rear children shrink from that responsibility and the Negro who, in addition to the handicaps of race and color, is shackled by mental and social incompetence serenely goes on his way bringing into the world children whose chances of mere existence are apparently becoming more and more hazardous.

   There is reason to believe, however, if one is willing to accept the almost universal testimony of Negro physicians, that since the economic collapse birth control of a sort is being attempted on a wide scale among the lower classes of Negroes, who find themselves facing a future of almost certain insecurity and want. Negro women in formidable numbers, without the advantage of contraceptive information, seek relief through abortions performed under highly dangerous conditions by unskilled and sometimes grossly ignorant quacks. The

[p. 170]

question is not whether there shall be conscious control of births, but whether it shall be achieved by contraceptive methods of proven value and safety or by the clumsy almost murderous methods of the medical racketeer.

   Even among the favored white group comparatively scanty provision has been made for the training of physicians in contraceptive methods. The great mass of Negro physicians are trained at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, and Howard University in Washington, D. C. But if there is any course in either of these institutions, dealing with modern contraception the writer is not aware of it. And although birth control clinics are rapidly increasing throughout the country, there are only two serving the great Negro communities of Harlem, and the South Side in Chicago.

   The probabilities are that the race problem in America is infinitely aggravated by the presence of too many unhappily born, sub-normals, morons, and imbeciles of both races. It will be a tremendous misfortune if those who are fighting the battle for birth control should remain unmindful or indifferent to the plight of the Negro. For at present the practice is confined to those whose offspring would be best fitted to carry the lance of racial progress.

   


back to top