Few questions raise more hackles among Planned Parenthood defenders and opponents than the question of Margaret Sanger's possible racism. In fact, I've been called a servant of Satan for my position on this ... by pro-lifers!
I contend that Sanger was a eugenic bigot but probably not a racist. Because of what we know about Nazi Germany, we tend to associate eugenics with racism. But not all eugenicists were racists, and not all eugenicists were anti-Semites. In fact, plenty of American Jews were eugenicists, including Sanger’s own clinic doctors, Hannah and Abraham Stone!
Eugenicists were often racists, but not always; they discriminated on the basis of perceived “fitness,” which was often but not always correlated to race. Criteria for “fitness” included intelligence, sanity, physical health, and wealth.
Those who were designated “unfit” invariably included the poor, epileptics, syphilitics, alcoholics, the “feeble-minded,” criminals, the physically and mentally disabled, and the insane. Insofar as racial minorities were often poor, sick, and uneducated, they came under attack, but often indirectly.
Sanger’s own views seem to be the following: she was a committed eugenicist, advocating the worst eugenic policies–such as forced eugenic sterilization–but not a racist. It is correct, therefore, to call Sanger an “elitist bigot” in that she advocated the control of the alleged over-production of the “unfit,” a population specified by categories that often included large portions of racial minorities. There is insufficient evidence to argue that she was an out-and-out racist. Her ideology and policies had racist effects, however.