American Dreams Podcast

The U.S. has a dark history of "Master Race" thinking - which the Nazis studied and learned from. In this episode, we look at eugenics, forced sterilization and supremacy.

Show Notes

In 1961, 44-year-old Fannie Lou Hamer went to Sunflower County Hospital in Mississippi to have a minor tumor removed. Instead, the doctor gave her a "Mississippi Appendectomy." In other words, they sterilized her. Without her knowledge or consent. A year later, Hamer attended her first Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee meeting, launching her civil and voting rights activist career. She has said her forced sterilization was the catalyst for her activism.

Hamer wasn't the only Black or Brown woman who faced forced sterilization in early and mid-20th century America. It was actually quite common, and purposefully put forward by many of the elite in the U.S. through the theory of Eugenics - or race supremacy - which the Nazis actually copied to formulate their own theories.

In this episode of American Dreams: Reproductive Justice, we look at how white America has tried to control women's bodies - both by keeping "undesirables" from getting pregnant, and keeping "desirable" pregnant women from having abortions.

Sociologist Alicia Suarez notes that anti-abortion sentiment was coopted by the religious right in the 1980s, but was actually propagated by early medical leaders who wanted to keep WASP women controlled by saddling them with children, and non-WASP women controlled by taking away their ability to procreate.

One of the ways the state of California forced sterilization on its residents was through the Sonoma County Children's home, where "deviants" were sent for punishment - for being poor, for not speaking English, for already having too many kids, for being a teenager raped by her father -  and given a choice: stay imprisoned or get sterilized.

We talk to journalist Phil Barber about his stunning investigative piece in The Press Democrat in 2021. And with Alexandra Minna Stern and Natalie Lira, who help put our history in context. Hint: It doesn't reflect well on us.

Creators & Guests

Host
Erika F. Washington
Politically savvy mama, @MIWNV Executive Director on the hunt for new adjectives, social justice & red wine in fabulous Las Vegas. *These Tweets Is Mine
Guest
Alexandra Minna Stern
Alexandra Minna Stern is the Humanities Dean and Professor of English and History, and at the Institute for Society and Genetics, at the University of California, Los Angeles. She founded and co-directs the Sterilization and Social Justice Lab, which looks at the history of eugenics and sterilization in five U.S. states. Her recent book, Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate (2019), applies the lenses of historical analysis, feminist studies, and critical race studies to deconstructing the core ideas of the alt-right and white nationalism.
Guest
Alicia Suarez
Alicia Suarez is a sociology professor at DePaw University in Greencastle, Indiana. She focuses on marginalized populations, health and deviance.
Designer
Brent Holmes
Brent Holmes is a creative roustabout, artist, cultural commentator, raconteur, and designer. His art has been exhibited in the Nevada museum of art, and the Marjorie Barrick Museum. You can find his writing in Desert Companion Magazine, the Believer, and Double Scoop Nevada. He can tell you stories about glittering ugly cities and dark beautiful wastelands but he would rather hear yours.
Writer
Carrie Kaufman
Carrie Kaufman is a multi-media journalist, with extensive experience in print, digital and public radio spaces. She is the producer, writer and editor of American Dreams Reproductive Justice, and the director of Overthinking Media LLC.
Editor
Carrie Kaufman
Carrie Kaufman is a multi-media journalist, with extensive experience in print, digital and public radio spaces. She is the producer, writer and editor of American Dreams Reproductive Justice, and the director of Overthinking Media LLC.
Producer
Carrie Kaufman
Columnist @NevadaCurrent. Fmr talk host @KNPRnews @wpr, writer, editor, speaker, mom to amazing twin daughters. Obsessed with learning EVERYTHING! She/Her Queer
Producer
Erika F. Washington
Guest
Loretta J. Ross
Activist. Public Intellectual. Professor. | Calling In movement maker | Co-founder @sistersong_woc | A Godmother to reproductive justice & survivor advocate
Producer
Make It Work Nevada
Make It Work Nevada fights for economic security for women, men and families across Nevada. It’s time that all of us are able to #MakeItWork.
Guest
Natalie Lira
Natalie Lira is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Latina/Latino Studies at the University of Illinois at Ubrana-Champaign. She is also the co-chair, with Alexandra Minna Stern, of the Sterilization and Social Justice Lab.
Guest
Phil Barber
Deprogrammed sports guy now reporting news and "Wine Country" oddities for The Press Democrat. I don't freestyle much, but I write 'em like such.
Composer
Wil Black
Wil Black is the principal of Black Gypsy Music TV......
Producer
You're Overthinking It
Overthinking Media LLC produces a Substack by @CarrieKaufman. We also produce podcasts for public media and non-profit groups on social and educational issues.

What is American Dreams Podcast ?

American Dreams is a podcast that will explore exactly what Reproductive Justice means. Reproductive Justice was an idea birthed in 1994, by 12 Black women who felt unseen by the white establishment.

The four principles of Reproductive Justice are:
1. The right to have a child
2. The right to not have a child (which includes sterilization, which many doctors won’t do)
3. The right to have a child in a healthy environment and then raise them safely
4. The right to bodily autonomy and sexuality

These principles are repeated throughout this podcast, as well as homages to the 12 founders who “gave birth” to the Reproductive Justice movement.

American Dreams: Reproductive Justice is executive produced and hosted by Erika Washington, powered by Make It Work Nevada. The podcast is produced, written and edited by Carrie Kaufman of Overthinking Media LLC. Music by Wil Black of Black Gypsy Music. Artwork by Brent Holmes.