Hillary Clinton / Margaret Sanger

ClintonWell, this is making the rounds, so I’ll say a couple of things about it.

First, it’s a pure hit piece against Hillary Clinton, and it absolutely came right out of the GOP hate machine.

Second, it’s a hit against Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, which all the more obviously means it originated with the Right.

Wikipedia:

Margaret Higgins Sanger (September 14, 1879 – September 6, 1966) was an American birth control activist, sex educator, and nurse. Sanger popularized the term birth control, opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Sanger was PROSECUTED in 1914 for her book about pregnancy and contraception, Family Limitation, under a FEDERAL LAW which forbade public access to information on contraception, on the grounds of obscenity.

There’s some question about whether she actually said or wrote this “quote.” I couldn’t find anything saying she did. I did find several articles pointing out that Sanger has long been a target of the “forced birth” party, the ones who passionately hate Planned Parenthood, and asserting that Sanger never said any such thing.

But let’s say she did say it. Here’s the thing: If you and I and everybody we know had been born in 1879, the probability is high that we would all be racists. Hell, we would have hated the IRISH. We would have highly approved of this supposed Sanger quote, and thought fondly of what the world would be like without “Negroes.”

By modern standards, pretty much everybodJudging the Past copyy in the past was, in one way or another, a tremendous asshole. But just as you don’t judge a children’s theatrical production  by the standards of a professional theatre critic, you don’t judge people of the past exclusively by modern standards. If you do, it speaks more of your ignorance of what progress means than it does the low quality of our ancestors.

You don’t judge people of the past by their imperfections. You judge them for RISING ABOVE the imperfections of the era in which they were born. You judge them in light of the culture they were born into, and overcame. You judge them for contributing their one small piece to the more enlightened age in which we live. For laying a single brick — just one — in today’s cultural house.

Even if they grew above the crowd in only in one way — that’s all it takes for history to spotlight them with greatness.

Sanger did more for women’s health, safety and reproductive rights than any 1,000 of us sitting here reading this, and she did it in the face of massive conservative outrage and opposition. They would have put her in prison merely FOR GIVING WOMEN INFORMATION on how not to die in childbirth.

So kudos to Hillary Clinton for admiring her. I do too. Sanger was a giant.

  • c2t2

    *applause*

  • I agree with your doubts that the quote is genuine, it looks like standard internet bullshit to me. Even if it is genuine, which seems unlikely, I wouldn’t condemn Clinton for it, since she probably didn’t know about it. But the rest of your argument here is pretty terrible.

    If you and I and everybody we know had been born in 1879, the probably
    is high that we would all be racists. Hell, we would have hated the
    IRISH. We would have highly approved of this supposed Sanger quote, and
    thought fondly of what the world would be like without “Negroes.”

    Would we? I can buy the idea that most of us would be racist to some extent, but calling for outright extermination seems pretty extreme even for that time. At the risk of incurring the wrath of Godwin, I have to wonder if you thought about the implications of saying that we shouldn’t judge people of the early 20th century for wanting to exterminate an entire race.

    • Hank Fox

      I was born in the Deep South of the 1950s, and you’d be amazed at how common — and highly approved — was the idea of killing black people. I can’t imagine it was any different 75 years before.

      • Was it at the level of a desire for total extermination though? The impression I have of the situation (from the outside, having not experienced it personally) is one with large-scale violence against black people on an individual level, and officially sanctioned segregation with blacks treated as second-class citizens, but not quite reaching the more extreme level of a widespread desire for genocide. Some people might have wanted genocide, enough to publicly say so, but was it ever the case that this was the standard position, such that it would be surprising if somebody did not support genocide? You seem to be saying that wanting to kill all black people is compatible with having admirable views on social issues, and the only way that makes any sense to me is if the idea of not killing all black people is so rare as to be almost unthinkable.

      • SomersetJohn

        I listened to a radio documentary on the song “Strange Fruit”, made famous by, I believe, Nina Simone. One part of the documentary which made a great impression on me was where a negro woman and her child were hung from a bridge. This was celebrated by just about the entire town holding a picnic by the bridge. If you have access to Iplayer, look for it on Radio 4.
        I have no doubt that the extermination of the black people was devoutly wished for by southern whites. Not all of course, but the vast majority.