Week 6: Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics

In this week’s discussion of citizenship and rights in the new republic, what grabbed my attention the most was the description of emancipation as a process. It is easy to think back about the dates you learned in school and consider them to be specific points in time when there was a sudden change, and the course of history was altered, but I think it would be true to say that, for most historic events, this is simply not true. Emancipation was a process that took an exceptionally long amount of time to be completed, and arguably still isn’t completed. As mentioned in the video, even after slavery was forbidden, slaves were being sold in the black market for decades after.

And when we think about it, especially for countries like Brazil, slavery was still very much alive and legal not that long ago. Obviously that sort of cruelty creates an impact on Latin America’s society that still exists today. Racism in many Latin American countries is something quite singular in my opinion, because probably half, if not more, of the people have some type of recent black ancestry. Even when black people are not a minority, there is still a lot of racism against black people in Latin America, because of the history of the region. White people were in power back then, and white people are still in power today, just look at the richest CEOs and politicians.

I found the reading of the document “The Fetishist Animism of Bahian Negroes” very interesting. “In Bahia there exist deep-rooted fetishist beliefs and practices, established as ordinarily as those in Africa, neither hidden nor disguised but present in the full light of day; there exists a life that evinces its licitness in the police licenses granted for large annual festivals or candombl├ęs and that enjoys the tolerance of public opinion, as reflected in how matter-of-factly the daily press reports on these gatherings, as if they were just another facet of our normal life” (dawson, p92). I found this passage interesting because it paints a very clear picture of the mixture of cultures and vivacity of black people in their traditions even back in the late 1800’s. It is also interesting because Bahia could be described exactly the same way today.

The history of slavery left very real on going consequences to black people today, beginning in education. Bahia is one of Brazil’s states with the largest population of black people (81% of the population declare themselves as black) but, in the state, 82% of the doctors are white people. This is no coincidence, and a few years ago the Brazilian government made the decision to start “cotas” in federal public universities all over the country, meaning that 50% of the spots in the universities are reserved for blacks, natives, low income people, and students from public schools, which has been helping considerably to bridge the gap towards more representation in every profession.

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