Jacobs and Bouvard History and Social Science Essay

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Jacobs and Bouvard

History and social science is interesting in and of itself but also when the reader understands the cultural perspective of that population. Much historical discourse centers on the culture clash that occurs when an indigenous population is conquered by an oppressive regime. Many of the texts that come from a cultural perspective discuss this conflict. For the native peoples, a psychological debate occurs whether to hold onto their own historical culture or to allow themselves to be assimilated into the empirical culture. The texts that result highlight this question, but also make it understood that there is no clear answer. Part of the individual person will undoubtedly feel some desire to associate themselves with the majority in order to prevent themselves from being labeled as something other or outside of the norm. Yet, the other part of that same person will feel at least partially pulled towards taking up the cause of their heritage. By keeping the customs of their ancestors alive, they are ensuring that the heritage is not forgotten. Therefore, it can be concluded that for people who are members of indigenous populations, or who are members of any other cultural minority for that matter, will feel a pull to choose one side or the other. Usually the result of this internal conflict will be an unanswered question, for it can be almost impossible to create a definite and unchanging identity when the world and the people in it are always changing. In the texts Revolutionizing Motherhood: the Mothers of the Plaza De Mayo and White Mother to a Dark Race, authors Marguerite Guzman Bouvard and Margaret Jacobs discuss what happens when the oppressive regime tries to subvert the culture of the indigenous population and to force assimilation.

In Marguerite Guzman's book, the author discusses an incident in history regarding the actions of a determined group of women and the fight for human rights. In the late half of the 20th century, an atrocity was occurring in Argentina. In that country's "Dirty War" thousands of citizens were abducted and tortured, many never to be seen again. The Dirty War was the name given to the period after three leaders of the Argentinean armed forces staged a coup and took control of the country. After they gained control, the three men dissolved the government's congress and reorganized the Supreme Court. No longer was the government interested in protecting the rights of the citizens, but in ensuring that these three men retained their newly-acquired political powers (20). Many of those who were taken away from their families were children. The policy of abduction was considered legal by this corrupt regime. They argued their right to remove citizens by declaring them dangers to the new government. The mothers of the Argentinean children refused to stand idly by and allow their tragedy to continue unnoticed by the rest of the world population. Because the families were so heavily marginalized within their own country, it was not until the amount of missing had surpassed ten thousand that due attention was paid to the circumstances. The woman started a group, calling themselves the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Their initial intention was to find some answers as to the whereabouts of their missing children. When it was finally determined that the majority of the children had been murdered, the focus of the group shifted to seeking prosecution for the guilty and justice for the dead.

Gender, as opposed to the physical classification of sex, has always been based upon societal construct. The current psychology of the masses dictates what proper or improper behavior for the given genders is. This has always been the way of things. Things have progressed, but there is still a vast difference between the roles and responsibilities of males and their female counterparts. Where before women could hold only menial jobs if they were among the poor, now women can hold nearly any job; even ones which would be historically male domains, like healthcare and law. The conflict of the modern age often stems from an intersection of gender and ethical dilemmas, both based upon societal rules. Most South American countries, and many other nations around the world, still prescribe to what the Western world would consider outdated and anachronistic gender differentiation. The women of Argentina were expected to fulfill their prescribed role without questioning their government or the actions of any male. Yet, these women were willing to transform themselves from loving mothers to private detectives, refusing to give up on the search for justice for their murdered children.

One of the hardest things for a parent is to lose a child. For the Argentinean mothers, there was an unbearably long period of time when they did not even know what happened to their children. According to Guzman, by 1971 someone was being abducted by the government forces during the Dirty War at a rate of one every eighteen days (21). So not only did the women not know where their children went, but they had no one to go to in order to seek aid. Their children were being kidnapped and tortured by their own government. There can be no pain quite like this. What makes the women in this story so remarkable is that they stood up for their rights as mothers; stood up even to the most powerful people in the country, people who could kill these women. Above all things, the story shows the strength of a desperate mother against impossible odds.

In White Mother to a Dark Race, author Margaret Jacobs tracks a horror that occurred both in the United States and in Australia. Human history in nearly every country has a tendency to be based on policies which are racist or prejudicial. All colonizers function on the idea that they are in some way superior to the indigenous populations. In both the United States and Australia, legislation and policies passed which were based on these false ideas about racial differentiation being equitable to superiority or inferiority. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, officials of the majority white culture determined that the children of indigenous peoples should be removed from their parents and placed in special schools where they would be indoctrinated in the majority culture and more readily accept assimilation. The reasoning behind these actions included erroneous and racially prejudicial opinions regarding the native populations. Among the reasons were that the women were incapable of properly caring for their children because they have wrong beliefs and are subservient to supposedly angry and violent native men. Never mind that this was the time period of the "Angel in the Home," which forced well-to-do women to remain isolated within their homes and encouraged females be genteel and always in agreement with their husbands on all matters. Instead of seeing something ironic in their feelings of superiority over the Native Americans and aborigines, the white women who supported removal cited their positions as the correct type of homemaker as opposed to the native who was somehow improper (Jacobs 128). White women became foster mothers to these confiscated children, creating a generation of children who were born into the minority culture but forcibly encapsulated by the majority culture.

Interestingly, according to Jacobs, a great number of men were actually in opposition to the removal of native children. The women's groups behind the movement were citing erroneous charges of "neglect, moral depravity, and unfit motherhood" (Jacobs 139). This disagreement, Jacob notes, had little to do with a different viewpoint on the nature of natives or whether or not the white women would make more appropriate mothers. Rather, their dismissal of the women's initiative was an effort to keep the female element out of public policy making and ensuring that politics and legislation remained the parameter of the white male.

Besides policies regarding child removal, women in Australia also petitioned for legislation to bar interracial marriage or interracial reproduction. An official document sent to the Australian Northern Territory Chief Protector Cook by the Women's Section of the United Country Party stated: "It is greatly to be deplored that the Federal Government is so far lost to the knowledge of our deep rooted sentiments and pride of race as to attempt to infuse a strain of aboriginal blood into our coming generations" (Jacobs 140). This letter is very important in a discussion of the removal of children because it absolutely makes concrete the fact that the policy has nothing to do with the supposed ill fitness of the natives to mother their children. The removal was all about indoctrination of the native children. By being adopted to white mothers, the children would more readily identify with the majority culture ensuring the continued dominance of that majority and decreasing the likelihood of any potential revolution by the minority culture.

For the natives themselves, there were people who actually thought that the removal of their children was beneficial to their offspring. Some of the natives determined…

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