When Racism Was a Science
'Haunted Files: The Eugenics Record Office' Recreates a Dark Time in a Laboratory's Past
By JOSHUA A. KRISCHOCT. 13, 2014
The Eugenics Record Office, in the 1920s, on Long Island. Credit Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the Eugenics Image Archive, Dolan DNA Learning Center
An old stucco house stands atop a grassy hill overlooking the Long Island Sound. Less than a mile down the road, the renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory bustles with more than 600 researchers and technicians, regularly producing breakthroughs in genetics, cancer and neuroscience.
But that old house, now a private residence on the outskirts of town, once held a facility whose very name evokes dark memories: the Eugenics Record Office.
In its heyday, the office was the premier scientific enterprise at Cold Spring Harbor. There, bigoted scientists applied rudimentary genetics to singling out supposedly superior races and degrading minorities. By the mid-1920s, the office had become the center of the eugenics movement in America.
Today, all that remains of it are files and photographs — reams of discredited research that once shaped anti-immigration laws, spurred forced-sterilization campaigns and barred refugees from entering Ellis Island. Now, historians and artists at New York University are bringing the eugenics office back into the public eye.
American Philosophical Society
“Haunted Files: The Eugenics Record Office,” a new exhibit at the university’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute, transports visitors to 1924, the height of the eugenics movement in the United States. Inside a dimly lit room, the sounds of an old typewriter click and clack, a teakettle whistles and papers shuffle. The office’s original file cabinets loom over reproduced desks and period knickknacks. Creaky cabinets slide open, and visitors are encouraged to thumb through copies of pseudoscientific papers.
“There’s a haunted quality, that’s the nature of the files,” said John Kuo Wei Tchen, a historian at N.Y.U. and co-curator of the exhibit. (This reporter is a student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, a separate branch of the university.) “We hoped we could evoke a visceral feeling of what it was like to be in a detention center, where people were presumed to be ineligible unless proven otherwise.”
When the Eugenics Record Office opened its doors in 1910, the founding scientists were considered progressives, intent on applying classic genetics to breeding better citizens. Funding poured in from the Rockefeller family and the Carnegie Institution. Charles Davenport, a prolific Harvard biologist, and his colleague, Harry H. Laughlin, led the charge.
“There were many prominent New Yorkers involved in eugenics,” Dr. Tchen said. “It was initially about how to become more efficient as a modern society.”
Researchers sought out “unfit” families in the Manhattan slums and the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. They cataloged disabilities and undesirable traits, scribbling the exact dimensions of heads and arms.
Psychiatric institutes sent crates of case files to the office, where the chief characteristics of “the feebleminded” were collated into pedigree charts. Davenport himself devised a sophisticated apparatus to quantify skin color.
Read more here/Leia mais aqui: The New York Times
Ideias têm consequências, mesmo as científicas. Não há como negar a influência da teoria da evolução de Darwin no fortalecimento do preconceito racial que resultou no Holocausto da Segunda Guerra Mundial.