I have been a very strong supporter of compensating the victims of North Carolina’s forced sterilization program. This issue means a lot to the victims and is one of the most important issues I’ve ever worked on.
Unfortunately, there’s one policy proposal that could and should stop any type of compensation system. If attempts are made to compensate the descendants of the victims (some victims did have children prior to being sterilized), as opposed to the victims themselves, the whole idea of compensation should be shot down. Such a move to compensate the descendants plays right into the reparations types of arguments, such as slavery reparations. I have written about this problem extensively.
When compensating actual victims, the injury is clear and the harm is concrete. When compensating descendants, any injury is speculative at best.
I bring this up because I was concerned about a recent report by WRAL saying that one member of the Governor’s task force, Demetrius Worley Berry, wanted to give $20,000 “to the estates of any verified victims who die before legislation is passed.”
The article goes on to say that the task force will address “whether to compensate the estates of sterilization victims who are dead.”
The entire task force has done a good job to date, so I hope such a seriously flawed proposal isn’t recommended to the legislature. Besides it being problematic as discussed, such a recommendation would undermine the credibility of the task force.
In addition to $20,000, victims should receive supplemental benefits, the details of which I’m working on.
There’s been talk of providing mental health services, which is perfectly appropriate.
My current ideas include (these are just ideas):
- Victims would never have to pay state taxes ever again. This could be done through nonrefundable tax credits equal to the average income tax paid by individuals in the state (about $1,100).
- There would be a $3 check-off on state income tax returns to help the eugenics compensation fund, not unlike the public campaign financing systems.
- Eliminating all political welfare programs, including the judicial public fund that consists of about $7 million. If the program is eliminated, as it should be, in part due to its constitutional flaws, this significant amount of money should go to the victims as opposed to the general fund.
- License plates to help subsidize the program and educate the public.
The $20,000 should be paid in increments, likely two year increments with a statute of limitations of five years (i.e. any victim must request the money within five years of it being made available).
There’s the potential here to provide victims much more than $20,000. While the state won’t be able to properly compensate the victims, it can take significant steps to right the wrongs.
However, if any of this money would go to the descendants, I would be the first to oppose compensation.