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Celebrating a Murderer: Columbus Day Needs to Go

Emma Komar, Managing Editor

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Christopher Columbus was a murderer.

We dedicate a day off to a man who ordered the enslavement of thousands of indigenous people. We teach second-graders rhymes about a journey to America that never happened (that’s right, Columbus landed in the Bahamas, not North America), and we celebrate the discovery of a land that was already inhabited.

Thankfully, the city of Los Angeles isn’t buying into it, and it’s about time.

On August 30, the Los Angeles City Council voted to change the second Monday in October from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, siding with the many people who find Columbus Day a perpetuation of the violence towards natives.

The decision was controversial because few people think of Columbus Day as anything more than a day off. Why fuss over a title that results in a three-day weekend?  Others argued that the change is revisionist history, or an attempt to rewrite historical events that are now considered offensive.

However, it is not revisionist history to condemn immoral acts that we now recognize as evil. Changing the title of Columbus Day does not mean that we are pretending his voyage never happened; it means that we give more merit to the victims of his atrocities than Columbus himself, who really didn’t do anything meritorious.

Perhaps the biggest critics of changing Columbus Day are members of the Italian-American community, who protested the name change to fight for their own heritage.

Because Columbus was Italian, many people believe that his journey marked an important milestone in the history of Italian-Americans that should not be erased. While this may be true, celebrating historical events that happened at the expense of minority groups is both insensitive and unjust.

The title Columbus Day suggests that Columbus’ voyage was noteworthy and deserving of respect. Because so many people believe that he discovered America, they believe that he played a larger role in the founding of our country than he really did. In reality, Columbus did much more harm than good.

According to both American Heritage Magazine and the Indian Country Media Network, Columbus got lost. His men enslaved, raped, and murdered peaceful natives, and he escaped punishment for his crimes with King Ferdinand’s pardon. Rather than glorifying a criminal as a historical hero, looking up to people like Italian-American war hero John Basilone is a preferable alternative. After all, fighting for America in WWII means that he’s at least seen America before.

Also, because we give Columbus so much credit, much of what we believe actually fosters an environment of disrespect and even contempt for the native people that inhabited the land before he discovered anything.

Although he never actually reached America, Columbus set a precedent for our unjust treatment of natives. Take the Dakota Access Pipeline: this pipe transports crude oil from ND to IL and endangers the 10,000 Standing Rock Sioux tribe members, as it runs under the Mississippi River, their main source of drinking water.

Should it leak even a little bit, the Standing Rock Sioux could be without fresh water. And, according to Time Magazine, no one thought to include the Sioux in a legally-required permitting process. Clearly, our disrespect for Native Americans continues beyond just celebrating Columbus’ negative effects on the indigenous community.

Luckily, many American cities are following LA’s rejection of Columbus’ legacy, San Jose included. On September 22, Mayor Sam Liccardo agreed that City Hall’s Columbus statue will be moved. The location has yet to be determined, but the statue’s removal is a step in the right direction.

In an interview with The Mercury News, Army veteran Martin T.L. Madrigal said, “City Hall either represents all of us, or it does not. With every fiber of my being, I can say that the statue of this fraud in no way does that.” Columbus should not represent the beliefs of our city’s people if he committed a mass genocide against a group of them. He is a symbol of divisiveness and exploitation, which no government building should stand for.

Columbus was a murderer, and it’s time we murder his legacy.

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Celebrating a Murderer: Columbus Day Needs to Go