You’d be lucky to find that proclamation in your calendar commemorating this day.
Not until recent years has there been controversy and backlash about this particular date. I haven’t been old enough to have an opinion outside of what was taught in history class. That history, by the way, mostly focused on the man that is Christopher Columbus, commissioned to sail the ocean blue in 14-hundred-92.
Despite my school and state’s significant Native American minority, we never once covered that point in history from their perspective. We maybe mentioned the names of tribes in the continental U.S., and that was about it. A white man’s history was the only history, and there was no reason to think otherwise.
I think now especially, as more people begin to speak up and gain greater awareness regarding one of our most marginalized populations, there’s a drive to celebrate the moments and people in history truly worth remembering.
There are only two federal holidays devoted strictly to one person: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Columbus Day. Knowing that, it practically means that both men are of equal importance to the American people. Two legacies that both deserve recognition.
However, they seem like polar opposites. One represents equality and hope, the other conquest and greed. Instead of standing up for the oppressed, giving a voice to a voiceless, Columbus brought a mentality with him that led to genocide and the start of a long history of seeing fellow human beings as “less than,” as “subhuman.” His discovery also planted the seeds that grew into the transatlantic slave trade.
That’s why so many activist groups and entire cities and states are opting out of Columbus Day and adopting Native American or Indigenous Peoples Day. We have entire months for other cultures and traditions, so the least we can do is a day, choosing to highlight what needs to be said and known about all Americans, no matter their skin color or country of origin.
Besides the fact today is what it is, I also thought of mentioning this today after hearing some of the news coverage from last week’s Las Vegas mass shooting. I do plan on discussing different aspects in light of this event, but one in particular is how the news has been classifying the violence, saying it’s “the worst massacre in American history.” And that is a flat-out lie, not that Trump would start tweeting to call that “fake news.”
Yes, Las Vegas and all home-grown terrorism (yes, this is terrorism. An act that evokes terror is terrorism) is devastating, but using that phrasing minimizes past tragedy and outright overlooks it altogether. The Wounded Knee massacre of 1890 far surpassed the 59 lost last week: roughly 250-300 men, women, and children died in a single day. That right there is a tragedy in of itself. One life is no less valuable than the next.
Our words, our actions, and our worldviews matter. How we respect others and their diversity is a reflection upon ourselves. Standing against Columbus Day and the history it represents should automatically be seen as a valiant act of justice and consideration. From Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and the entire push to Westernize Native Americans, I think they deserve our support, and this is a way to show it. They are another thread in America’s tapestry that have the same rights and freedoms as we do. If the reverse were to be the case, that we have day set aside for a minority leader violently uprooting Caucasian lives and killing off major populations, how would we react?
Not only was Columbus not the first person to discover the Americas (the vikings and Polynesians beat him to it), but he was on his exploration for Europe to essentially ensure that the land was inhabited by “nonentities.” Columbus also didn’t popularize the idea that the earth was round. The educated Europeans of Columbus’s day widely acknowledged that the earth was not flat, contrary to reports.
It just makes sense to make a universal decision, rather than sporadic states and cities transitioning away from this tradition, to rethink Columbus Day. Either remove the day altogether, or denote the day for Indigenous Peoples. Along with this, we need more Native American representation in our education. We need a multicultural perspective on the history we are teaching to upcoming generations so they prevent the truth of history repeating itself. Our population only continues to become more diverse, playing host to a growing number of ethnicities, but our education needs to catch up accordingly.
Let us not forget the past few months of outrage over removing Confederate statues and flags from public views, most of which were created in mass production in the 20th century after the adoption of the Jim Crow laws and beginnings of the civil rights movement. The statues were built ultimately with a clear message in mind: white supremacy.
We seem to evolve so rapidly in some areas, but in areas that stain American history, we lag behind. We cannot afford to do this much longer without accepting the negative consequences. Why not be on the progressive side of history? The one acknowledging the value of everyone? The one seeking a future recognizing the past’s flaws and working toward a more just, equal society?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie