Monday, May 14, 2007


I got the copy-edited version of an encyclopedia entry that I’ve written on race suicide for the forthcoming Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History. Race suicide is a concept that represents fears of being overwhelmed by another race because of the low birth rate of one’s own race.

I love writing encyclopedia entries. They are kind of like puzzles. You have to know the topic well enough to know what belongs in a 400- to 3500-word article. The race suicide entry is about 1500 words. Especially when you want to write entries that cover global issues, it’s a real challenge to write coherently about a topic in that kind of short form. In this case, I was able to show how the term worked in the U.S., among both blacks and whites, Europe, and Australia.

Among my favorite “factoids”: Theodore Roosevelt, who popularized the term in the early 20th century, called white middle- and upper-class women who limited their family sizes, “race criminals.” Margaret Sanger, feminist advocate for birth control, wanted to limit the fertility of the “unfit.” And, in 2006, Pat Roberson, host of the conservative 700 Club, warned, “Europe is right now in the midst of racial suicide because of the declining birth rate.” Race suicide is one of those concepts that just won’t die!

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