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.

Spam prevention powered by Akismet