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Why Are We Celebrating Columbus Day…Again?


It’s freakin’ Columbus Day again, the day we celebrate the man who committed genocide in the name of White supremacy and to enrich himself on the misery of other. So, it’s no surprise that our president, Donald J. Trump, had this to say this morning about Christopher Columbus:

“Christopher Columbus’s spirit of determination & adventure has provided inspiration to generations of Americans. On #ColumbusDay, we honor his remarkable accomplishments as a navigator, & celebrate his voyage into the unknown expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.”

I’m sure that back in school the president was taught the same heroic myth that I was. “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” and all that. Then I grew up and I read and studied and learned that this man that we have celebrated for hundreds of years was really just a genocidal profiteer. He wasn’t sailing to expand human knowledge, he was looking for self-aggrandizement and wealth in the East. He set in motion the enslavement and wholesale slaughter of the Native people of the Caribbean and paved the way to African slavery. So, what exactly did he do worth celebrating?

Discover America? How can you “discover” somewhere that has a 100 million people living there? It’s as if I were to cross the Hudson now and claim New Jersey in the name of Jackalonia. It’s stupid. Prove the Earth was round? People had known the Earth was round for hundreds of years before Columbus. So, what did he do besides enslave and murder Natives? Let’s have a parade.

The other night I was at a meeting of an organization I am a part of when one of the Italian-American members of the group reminded us that he and other Italian-American members were going to march in the New York City Columbus Day Parade. He told us, (a room full of Latinos btw), that on Columbus Day everyone is Italian. I don’t think he meant any harm in it. He’s an older gentleman from a generation and a culture that never questioned that Christopher Columbus was a hero and worthy of veneration. It is an attitude that many people still share, mostly because they still believe the traditional narrative of Columbus “discovering” America. It leaves out his megalomaniacal quest to be sole ruler of the areas he conquered, the enslavement  of the Native Americans under his direction, and the wholesale genocide that came as a result. It har back to a time when people just didn’t care about the plight of Native Americans and in fact saw the actions of Europeans and later Americans as a good thing.

There were holidays commemorating the landing of Columbus on October 12, 1492 since colonial times. But they were largely informal and local affairs. With the influx of Italian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century, this group wanted to establish a celebration of their Italian heritage here in the U.S. In 1906 was the first state holiday was established followed by its dedication as a federal holiday in 1937. In the last couple of decades there has been a growing movement to abolish Columbus Day as a holiday by Latinos and Native American groups in particular. There is still a great deal of resistance from Italian-American groups and many conservatives that see the backlash against Columbus as historical revisionism. In fact, in years past when we here at TuVez have posted anti-Columbus stuff we’ve been attacked by Columbus apologists. What I know for certain is that it’s long past time to put this holiday to rest. Then again, we live in a country that still has Native-American killer extraordinaire Andrew Jackson on the 20 dollar bill.

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