Week 6: Citizenship and Rights in the New Republic

This week, we learned about the people of post-Latin American independence fighting for their rights as citizens. As Dawson mentioned, race and caste were the most prominent categories in the early Latin American republican period, even before women’s rights became a topic of of debate. However, at this point in time, even something as straight forward as the French “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen”, can be arbitrary, due to the fact that it was difficult to define ‘citizen’.

Growing up, I learned about the slave trade and how they were transported across the Atlantic Ocean, however, we never truly covered how the slave trade was in Latin America, especially after independence. Considering that it wasn’t until 1888 that slavery was fully abolished in Brazil, and the slave trade lasted well over 3 centuries, it is easy to see why many effects are still visible today, only 129 years later (less than half of the length of time that slavery was present in Brazil!). In present day America’s, we see a lot of prejudice and social stigmas against people of African descent. There is unspoken and spoken racism that can be both discrete and evident. Hate crimes are prominent all across the America’s and this could be attributed to the history of imported slaves from Africa. Even though nowadays, there may be “equal rights”, socially, people of African descent continue to fight for equal opportunities and this will continue for a while, as the effects of slavery on contemporary America are long-lasting.

Because of this brutal history, tensions exist today. An example of these tensions that still exist today includes the tensions between Japanese and Chinese due to the Rape of Nanking in 1937. Growing up in Shanghai, a close proximity to Nanjing, it is clear that there is a lot of resentment. A lot of people will never forgive the Japanese, even though it occurred several generations ago, and meanwhile, many Japanese deny that the event ever occurred., Because of this, there is an underlying tension between the two peoples. Similarity, tensions exist in Latin America, and even in North America where slavery was also prominent.

I don’t believe that it is possible to do it justice. After all, how could anyone truly forgive such atrocities, deaths, or infringements upon people’s rights?  I do believe that, to a certain extent, we have to admit that it happened, however, we must remember that the past is not the fault of our current generation. All we can truly do is acknowledge history, not dust it under the rug, and keep history from repeating itself. For example, here at UBC,  it has become a custom to introduce the campus by saying that we are “located in the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people. The land it is situated on has always been a place of learning for the Musqueam people, who for millennia have passed on in their culture, history, and traditions from one generation to the next on this site.” We do this acknowledgement because we cannot displace the many non-indigenous people living here and simply “give the land back” to the Musqueam people. Nevertheless, we recognize that it is their territory, which, long ago, was taken from them, rather than pretending that it was never theirs.

4 Replies to “Week 6: Citizenship and Rights in the New Republic”

  1. I also felt that I’ve never learned about the slave trade in Latin America before this class. I grew up in the states, and only the slave trade for the US was covered. I had a vague idea that the practice spread further than the states, but had no idea the extent that slavery existed in Latin America, especially how long it took for it to be entirely abolished. The ideas I’ve had about slavery as a whole have been entirely influenced by an American education, and learning more about it’s presence in other cultures is important to understand the practice.

  2. I also agree with you that it is impossible for people(victims) to forgive such tragic events in the past. However, I believe that people can be educated about the mistakes in the history, admit and acknowledge it. If people can pass on to the generation in the future to be educated about these mistakes, the more liberal the society would become.

  3. Hi Michelle! I think your post was awesome! I particularly liked your mention of the Musqueam people.
    I was told recently that it takes three generations for the affect of discrimination, racism, slavery (or whatever one wants to call it) to start disappearing from the minds of people. I personally strongly disagree with this affirmation.
    Just like you I believe that there is no amount of apology speeches that could ever bring justice to the victims of crimes against humanity and to their descendants. I don’t think acknowledging what happened in the past can serve to redeem the people responsible for the cruelness of the crimes committed. The victims will forever remember and resent the past.
    Like William Faulkner would say, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The racism taking place in the United States nowadays is a perfect reminder of that.

  4. Hey Michelle! Really interesting perspective, adding different events in history to reinforce a lot of the concepts we are looking into. I agree wholeheartedly that the only “remedy”, if you can call it that, is in acknowledgement of traumatic events. Education is only one piece to the puzzle, and acknowledgement is another, but all these pieces are means working toward a purely hypothetical and unreachable end of “accepting these events”. We may not be able to reach the end, but I think we are be able to understand the aspects that make it up.

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