Progressive cancel culture recently claimed two of its own. Former President Woodrow Wilson, one of the early leaders of the progressive movement, is having his name purged from Princeton University, an institution he once led. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, also had her name removed from a New York abortion facility. The reason in both cases was the racism of the long-dead figure in question.
Cancel culture is the logical outcome of a largely successful effort by the Left to impose ideological conformity upon the nations academic, business, cultural, political, and social institutionsan orthodoxy so rigid that all other views not only are considered unworthy, but unspeakable. Even a youthful utterance made long in the past is now enough to destroy someones reputation or career.
In the world of Black Lives Matter, Wilson and Sanger were thrown under the bus so that progressives could preserve their anti-racist bonafides. But these same progressives continue to conceal their movements dark history of racism, which went far beyond words to include eugenics research that characterized blacks as unfit and proposed, through forced sterilization and other means, to produce a nation of thoroughbreds through the breeding out the unfit.
Those who have noted the disproportionately high rates of abortions among black peoplethey accounted for 38% of them in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionmight want to think again when theyre asked to embrace Planned Parenthood. The progressive perspective on racial matters is no better expressed than in Margaret Sangers Plan for Peace published in a 1932 issue of the magazine she founded, Birth Control Review.
Sanger advised the nation to keep the doors of immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, to apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring, to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization, and to take an inventory ... [of] illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends, classify them in special departments under government medical protection, and segregate them on farms and open spaces as long as necessary for the strengthening and development of moral conduct.
Such policies ultimately were responsible for the forced sterilization of some 60,000 to 70,000 people in the United States (and possibly more) whom progressives and other eugenics supporters deemed unfit.
The Supreme Courts 1927 decision in Buck vs. Bell (an 8-1 decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes) provided the legal authority for forced sterilization. By any reasonable standard, it is one of the worst decisions ever made by the court, on par with the 1857 Dred Scott decision. The language used in Buck (proclaiming of the plaintiff that three generations of imbeciles is enough) is forever a stain on the court.
People are largely unaware of this history and even more unaware that it was the U.S., not Nazi Germany, that was first to institutionalize what is known as scientific racism. James Q. Whitman, Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale University, documents this in his landmark book, Hitlers American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law. In short, the scientific racism promoted by U.S. progressives and others helped pave the way to Auschwitz.
Progressives shouldnt get a pass on their movements inexcusable history just because they recently dumped Wilsons and Sangers names from buildings and programs. But the larger question is why people in the U.S. are so unaware of progressivisms brutally racist past.
As a first step toward finding the answer, I recently reviewed high school history books and other teaching materials to determine how progressive history is covered. The books claim to cover the broad sweep of American history and yet, with very few exceptions, present the early progressive movement in an invariably positive light as an effort to seek social justice and promote the common good. They misrepresent Sanger as a social justice advocate for women, ignoring her support of scientific racism. They ignore the movements role in eugenics, omitting, with very few minor exceptions, any mention of the history of forced sterilization in the U.S. I could not find even one mention of Buck vs. Bell. And finally, these texts remarkably ignored the relationship between American and German eugenics activities of the era.
Logic would dictate that progressives ought to cancel themselvesdisown their history, as they insist of others. But dont hold your breath.