F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Uniform American Citizenship

           Upon truly thinking about the notions, definitions, and/or ideas surrounding “citizenship,” we see that it is not as fixed a concept as it is often treated. Dr. Bonner begins his presentation by asking, “What is citizenship?” There is no simple answer to the question he poses, and it led me to pose additional questions such as:
1. What is the criteria for citizenship?
2. Who gets to be the authority on citizenship? Can it only be regulated legally?
3. Is treating citizenship objectively too lofty an ideal?
           As a colony of the U.S., Puerto Ricans on the island find themselves with stipulations to their U.S. citizenship. (I would like to add, for it would be irresponsible not to, that this not only affects Puerto Rico, but all “citizens” of U.S. territories. However, for the purpose of this proposed research project, the focus is on Puerto Rico.) Some of the consequences of this modified citizenship include the absence of a Puerto Rican military, an absence of representation in Congress, and what is arguably the largest deprivation of rights as a citizenthe prohibition of voting for president. Finding a solution to Puerto Rico’s colonial status is complex, frustrating, and arduous. There are also differing opinions on whether to remain a commonwealth, become independent, or become a state that exacerbate the aforementioned ways to describe the current situation.
            It is perhaps too demanding to try to apply the framework applied to the struggle for Black citizenshipi.e. recognition of Black people as (equal) citizensto that of Puerto Rico given that in practice, Black people in the U.S. still are not treated  equally to their white counterparts. Nevertheless, can an attempt be made? (I must add again, that this is not to ignore the reality of “second-class” citizenship experienced by other non-white peoples in the U.S., but for the purpose of this proposed research project, the context is questions of citizenship as it relates to Black people in the U.S. and Puerto Ricans on the island.) However, the strides that have been made in the case for Black citizenship legally provide Black people in the U.S. with more rights. As it pertains to citizenship and the rights contained therein, there should never be quantitative nor qualitative aspects to the same, and yet there are.
            The proposed project aims to ask/address some of the following:
1. The delicate reality of another group of people using, in part or in whole, the strategies used to achieve better treatment as citizens. This is particularly sensitive as it relates to Black people in the U.S. due to enduring actions of appropriation whether cultural, or in this case political. However, in the common goal of fighting the core of why this nonuniform citizenship exists, this should be acknowledged, but not a hindrance to the exchange of strategies.
2. A thorough look at how women were/are instrumental in the advancements for the collective. In observing the current climate of protest in Puerto Rico and the U.S., we see just how involved women are.  How can we make that visibility even more evident and/or re-center (move away from the historical exclusion of women) in achieving the proposed goals?
3. Taking into consideration cultural and historical similarities and differences between the two groups, what can successfully be exchanged and applied to each other’s causes? Are there concrete objectives that can be met as it relates to the citizenship status of Puerto Ricans on the island after borrowing from the framework established in the fight for Black citizenship to, in the end, achieve “American citizenship”?

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