|"This is not Racism"
In the early 1970s some people accused Pauling of being a racist after hearing him
lecture on abnormal hemoglobin and disease. For example, at Michigan State University
in July 1972 a female audience member charged Pauling of promoting genocide and superior
racism when he said that carriers of genetic diseases should not procreate. Pauling
replied to her comment: "It's alright for her [a mother] to be allowed to determine
the extent to which she will suffer, but she should not be allowed to produce a child
who will suffer. This is immoral. It is wrong to produce a little black child who
will lead a life of suffering. I would say this is not racism. I advocate the very
same thing to Jewish people who have the gene for Tay-Sachs disease, and to people
of all kinds who carry these abnormal genes."
The audience's reactions to Pauling's statements demonstrate the change in views developing
at this time as a result of the Civil Rights Movement. In the early 1970s eugenic
statements about sickle cell diseases, like those made by Pauling, came under attack
by civil rights activists, who were wary of compulsory screening for the disease.
By early 1972 not only was sickle cell anemia a major focus of the United States government
because of the National Sickle Cell Anemia Control Act of 1972, but also discussions
flared about the inferiority stigma associated to African-Americans because they were
the primary carriers of sickle cell hemoglobin.
Despite the support of colleagues including pathologist Robert Nalbandian, and in contrast to his lifelong tendency toward open support for controversial opinions
(e.g., refusing to comply with anti-communism demands, promoting the test ban treaty,
and advocating the benefits of vitamin C), Pauling took an unusual course in the case
of sickle cell disease. After fifteen years of supporting genetic counseling and eugenic
programs, he became silent about eugenic issues around 1972 at the height of the controversy.
The difference between Pauling's other crusades and sickle cell anemia is that Pauling
took a liberal stance against communism, nuclear weapons testing, and conventional
medical practices; but with sickle cell anemia he expressed more conservative opinions.