Automating Inequality

Automating Inequality

How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor

Virginia Eubanks

Widespread reproductive restrictions were perhaps the inevitable destination for scientific charity and eugenics. In the Buck v. Bell case that legalized involuntary sterilization, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously wrote, “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.” 11 Though the practice fell out of favor in light of Nazi atrocities during World War II, eugenics resulted in more than 60,000 compulsory sterilizations of poor and working-class people in the United States.

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