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Guest post: Wrestling with Columbus Day by Faith Jones

2010 October 11
by The Busy Signal

Faith Jones is the editor-in-chief of the television blog Life In High Definition.

Here in America, lack of understanding behind the holidays we celebrate is a troubling phenomenon. This is most obvious today, on which falls the most glaringly misunderstood, unnecessary holiday of all: the one in honor of Christopher Columbus.

In grade school we learned that Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue in fourteen-hundred-ninety-two. Yes, he did. But then we all grew up, and many of us came to the realization that he was, in fact, responsible for laying the groundwork for the genocide of millions of indigenous peoples of what are now called the Americas and the Caribbean area. This is a fact, and we should not disregard facts in order to buy into popular mythology.

Today, I got into an argument with one of my peers about Columbus Day. Of course, I was arguing that, as an individual whose legacy is setting the stage for killing an entire race of people, Christopher Columbus (“explorer” and “navigator”), should not be any more celebrated than the predecessors of Josef Stalin or Slobodan Milosevic should be celebrated for their respective genocidal missions or “ethnic cleansing”.

I was not surprised, but no less disturbed, when he began to tell me that the Italian-Americans deserve a holiday when their culture is celebrated. I’m not going to sit here and argue whether any culture deserves or doesn’t deserve a federal holiday. Whatever my problems are with this way of thinking, I’ll go along with the idea that, since America is a country founded and based around immigration, every culture should be celebrated in some fashion

But why are people, knowing full well that Columbus didn’t discover America any more than I discovered Paris when I visited, giving him credit for anything? (Full disclosure: Paris was already populated by the time of my trip, but don’t let that stand in the way of my discovery). Also, why are Italian-Americans running around all excited about celebrating their culture during Columbus Day, as though it were some sort of turning point for the well-being of the Italian-American community?

Let’s put aside the genocide for a bit. Let’s also forget for a minute that America was “discovered” by Amerigo Vespucci ahead of Christopher Columbus…

Newsflash, people: although Christopher Columbus was Italian, he initiated SPANISH COLONIZATION. He was working for the Spanish crown, not its Italian counterpart. This should be obvious, since today’s people in Hispanola, where Columbus originally landed, are Spanish and French speakers, not Italian. If people were honest with their history and honest with themselves, the only ones who would be celebrating Columbus Day would be direct descendants of Spanish Colonizers, excited and thankful that their families are unimaginably wealthy due to the blood on their hands.

I cannot understand why cultures aside from the indigenous people of North America haven’t lobbied to the United States government in protest of the federal celebration of Columbus Day. Where are my Dominicans, who have Columbus to blame for a heritage that led directly to tyrants like Trujillo, who, in turn, are to blame for the heartbreaking “color wars” between Dominicans everywhere? Where are my fellow black Americans, and how come they aren’t raising hell about the racist symbolism the holiday employs and the colonialism that it commemorates?

While we’re at it, where are my Italian-Americans demanding a holiday that honors their trials and tribulations as an immigrant ethnic group in the United States, that educates people about Italian culture, that combats negative media stereotypes?

Why aren’t more people angry about this?

One Response
  1. Nephre Golden permalink
    October 11, 2010

    So many well taken points. There is so much wrong about this holiday….and it is so much at the root of what’s wrong with this country. Thanks for putting this out there!

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