America celebrates her villains as “heroes”, then convinces her citizens that it’s acceptable to honor corrupt men and women. History has been tampered with and diluted to mask the stench of absolute wickedness done in this country and others. America softens the tragedies of people of color in history, by minimizing its impacts and brushing it aside as “the past”. Such has been done in the celebration of Columbus Day. This is a racist holiday, as it reveres a man who had a big hand in the slaughter of the indigenous people. To honor him is to disrespect those who suffered under his coming to their land. Fortunately, there are many states who have changed the name and focus from Columbus Day to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” for the recognition of indigenous people instead of European invaders. The arguments (and there are many) that Columbus should be praised as some American hero is insensitive. What’s so heroic about genocide?
First of all it should be known by now that Columbus did not “discover” anything. You can’t discover a land that people already knew about and lived in. Secondly, his perspective on the Native People was not at all positive. He bragged in his journal about how they could be made servants and “with fifty men they can be subjected and made to do what is required of them.” (Voyages of Columbus , pages 111-114). Columbus also enslaved the Native People for gold and punished those who didn’t bring him enough by cutting their hands off.
Young girls were sold into sex slavery and given to Columbus’s men. His friend, Michele de Cuneo, disgustingly reported his sexual assault of an indigenous woman. Historic European/Indigenous relations are often romanticized, and the indigenous women are often portrayed as having a lust for European strangers. In reality, they were raped and abused. This fact can’t be ignored.
This is not every detail of the tragedies that Columbus brought, but hopefully a good enough reason to refuse admiration of him. You can’t honor a man responsible for murdering, enslaving, robbing, and torturing people. No matter how much of a “tradition” it is, those traditions need to be reexamined. Christopher Columbus does not deserve to be painted as a hero. There are too many murderers and criminals with schools and streets named after them. Once we ask questions and research more, we find that what we have been taught about supposed “heroes” are actually lies.
But how is this racist? It’s just a holiday right? But when you celebrate a man like Columbus, you’re ignoring the history of his wrongdoing towards a group of people who to this day suffer from the aftermath. If you disregard these facts, you’re cosigning the history of what happened to Native people as acceptable. It shows how little respect is actually given to those who have been here for centuries.
No one should celebrate Columbus this Monday, next Monday, or ever again.
(Nzinga Muhammad is based in Rochester, NY. Follow her on Twitter @QueenNzinga13)
Top photo source: Native News Online photo by Anthony Roy