Growing up, my introduction to Christopher Columbus and the so-called “discovery” of the New World was drenched in a coating of white-washing. We all learned the rhyme “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” We were taught he represented a changing time in the Western World, fearlessly battling the elements during his expedition and then doing his absolute best to get along with indigenous peoples.
This is all disgustingly inaccurate. The reality is a tale of rape, genocide, exploitation and a foundation for imperialism. In his 1980 book, A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn reveals the true character of Columbus and his bloodlust. In gruesome detail, Zinn quantifies the amount of infants murdered, the sheer amount of rape and the entire population loss at the hands of the Spaniards.
This is the truth, but we are still being taught a happy history, a history that does little to address the real story of Columbus. Largely, we as a country still have a Christopher Columbus day, a day to honor a murderer.
This week, the sides of Bascom were covered in signs shedding light on the carnage Columbus and other conquistadors wrought. One pointed out how Spaniards fed infants to their war dogs so they could get acquainted to the taste of human flesh.
This shouldn’t be a complicated issue. There is absolutely no reason why we should honor such a despicable man, yet to this day we still see rampant racism towards indigenous peoples.
State Rep. introduces ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’ legislation, looks to honor Native AmericansLegislation introduced Monday to the Wisconsin State Legislature could possibly change the name of the second Monday in October from Read…
Monday morning, the sacred fire circle at Dejope Hall was vandalized with red graffiti saying “Columbus rules 1492.” Somewhere in America’s deeply ingrained connection to racism lies an explanation as to why we still have this day at all.
This country honors people who commit or are implicit in atrocities. We honor our slave owning founding fathers; Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears is brushed aside; and Executive Order 9066 was even deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court.
Throughout history we are quick to absolve those of guilt because of what they’re “doing” for a white western society. While Christopher Columbus never set foot in the continental US, he is still idolized by many. This is absolutely wrong.
Over the years, there has been push back. In 1992, here on campus, protests in regards to the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ invasion took form. And more recently, there have been growing movements aimed at changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. This Monday, a state representative proposed this very change to Wisconsin as well.
Changing the name of the day is important. By honoring a man like Christopher Columbus we as a society are complicit in such revolting acts. We need to face the past and tell the whole truth of the invasion of the “New World.”
History cannot and should not be circumscribed by the white-washing of education that has spread throughout society. We must acknowledge that we are living on stolen land, taken through the processes of rape and genocide.
Adam Ramer ([email protected]) is a junior studying history and politics.