For the last year, the Healing Histories Project has been working in partnership with the Grassroots Organizer Working Group of the Anti-Eugenics Project to co-organize and curate a free six-day virtual public event, Dismantling Eugenics: Legacies, Reckonings & Futures. 100 years after the Second International Eugenics Congress, held in 1921, a collaboration of grassroots organizers, researchers, philanthropists, academic activists, artists & cultural workers are confronting and transforming this historical event by creating a virtual gathering that counters this event, held at the American Museum of Natural History. By centering those communities most impacted by eugenics in programming, cultural work and more we will be working towards building solutions that transform the eugenic foundations of dispossession, enslavement, racial capitalism and white supremacy. This Congress solidified eugenics as a state-sponsored practice and furthered the politics of exclusion that continues to shape our society today.
It matters to bring forward truth-telling about eugenics in 2021 because of all the way these harms and abuses still exist for many of our communities. Eugenicist logic still defines and impacts many of the forms of oppression and supremacy embedded in these pandemic and political times. Anti-eugenics is an intersectional term for anti-racism, anti-ableism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, decolonization, anti-ageism, and anti-capitalism. An anti-eugenics approach says that every individual and collective body has the right to determine for ourselves what being in relationship to land, body and spirit can feel and look like. . An anti-eugenics approach is an approach that honors both individual and collective sovereignty, rooted in harm-reduction and radical consent, and looks at supporting and building collective safety and wellbeing as an emergent or evolutionary relational process rather than a diagnostic goal.
Healing Histories Project’s COVID timeline was put together – and continues to be updated – to trace how these eugenicist logics have defined what care does and doesn’t look like for communities impacted by COVID. The timeline shows how the official response to the pandemic too often depends on a eugenics logic that monetizes and capitalizes on our survival or death. There are many many examples of this including how various states make access to necessary medical supplies based upon the money and social status that a care facility has or makes over-run care facilities responsible for finding their own supplies or doing without, in kind of Trumpian survival of the fittest scenario. It’s the eugenic inheritance of generations of inadequate care and the stress of racial violence that allows for Black folks to die at greater numbers than any other community in the US. Or the eugenicist logic that has medical directors tell staff in Christian hospitals that they can act from their anti-gay beliefs when providing COVID care, as happened in April 2020.
The Healing Histories Project has been part of visioning what this six day event will look like with HHP folks helping to curate programming, to craft the conference’s values statement, identify potential speakers and presenters, and help design a Movement Strategies Session on Eugenics that will bring together a small number of people involved in this work to co-design, dream and strategize together.
There is no such thing as a “normal” body, there are only bodies that shift and change in response to experiences and time. Every one of us has been shaped by and continues to be shaped by eugenicist ideologies. These ideologies are already impacting how we pivot towards addressing climate change; including how and when conversations about population control and resource control emerge and who is seen as needing to change and who defines that change. At its base, eugenic violence always confuses care with control and centers punishment as the response to disease rather than valuing all life, whether at its most vulnerable or its most fierce. Eugenic logic sets up a criteria for determining which bodies are expendable and which should be protected, who gets to have care and who does not, and who is vilified for their pain or vulnerabilities and who is allowed to be safe.
A collective uprooting is necessary; a collective transformation and dismantling. Please come and join us in September. It is free! Pre-Registration for the Dismantling Eugenics Virtual Convening will start in early September. Please come and learn alongside us. And please demand, in the smallest and the biggest of ways, a collective commitment to safety and wellness that centers around radical consent and our collective right to experience and name the glory of our own life in our own ways on our own terms.