Eugenics, Ableism behind acceptance of COVID deaths

Stella Fetherston, Co-Editor-in-Chief

As the COVID-19 pandemic has persisted, again and again we have heard this rhetoric that for the sake of the country, some lives must be sacrificed. More often than not, the lives that this sentiment is referencing ends up being those of the disabled and the elderly: those who are at higher risk of experiencing the deadlier side effects of COVID-19. 

So what exactly is the point of this line of thinking? Is it not a good goal to prevent needless death? Now, others may argue that these deaths aren’t needless; they are a cost of reopening not just America but the world. But that puts a price on real human lives, and if you’re computing how many people are worth that price, then you need to reexamine your values. 

Furthermore, this type of discussion is a gateway for ableist language that’s based in, surprise surprise, eugenics. Because let’s be real here, the message behind this idea is that the lives of disabled people are expendable. I cannot begin to express how disturbing that is. This is not natural selection; the world does not need some mass culling to improve our population. Back to my original point, this language has been used before to enforce the false idea that in order to ensure that desired genetic traits are passed down, other “undesirable” traits must be weeded out. This has been scientifically disproven, but minority groups – including but not limited to Jewish people, people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ+ and disabled people – have been targeted as a result. 

This isn’t a simple political disagreement, we need to be critical of this ideology because it has and will continue to result in more deaths. This belief, this devaluing of lives, runs deep. It’s present in our government, in our communities. But what makes this so frustrating is that disabled people have been telling us this. 

No community is truly voiceless; oftentimes, they are just unheard. Disabled activists have been calling out the ableism in our systems since long before this pandemic. It is our responsibility not just as individuals, but as a country, to reject this idea that some people must be left behind for the progression of our society. And this is especially important: we need to examine what could have led to these types of morals. Why are some lives worth the sacrifice? Why are some lives not? Where do you think this ideology came from, because I’ll give you a hint – it didn’t show up overnight.