Columbus Day Controversy

Columbus Fountain, Washington D.C.

Matthew Bradley

Columbus Fountain, Washington D.C.

Daniel Carvalheiro-Santos, Staff Writer

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As history has it, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 in search of the Spice Islands or the Moluccas However, Columbus found the Caribbean islands of the Bahamas and Hispaniola, subsequently claiming them in the name of the Spanish crown. Nonetheless, he believed he had reached the Spice Islands, calling the natives by the name of Indians. From there on, this 15th-century explorer proceeded to enslave the native peoples of these islands. The question here is why do we celebrate a man who committed so many atrocities in his life? Should we continue to celebrate Columbus Day now that we have made such discoveries about his life? What should our country due in regards to the celebration of Columbus Day, an issue as polarizing as can be? Let’s see what our teachers think about this controversial topic.

As a sophomore in Mr. Sinden’s class, I recognized the fact that he had a strong opinion on the topic, as we had discussed this in class. Therefore, I decided to interview him. When asked whether or not the federal holiday should be entirely done away with, Mr. Sinden expressed that, “It’s vitally important that we, as a country, do not pull a blanket over our history … but, at the same time, we also cannot glorify a man who committed so many atrocities to thriving civilizations.” In regards to a possible replacement for Columbus Day, he explained that the holiday shouldn’t, “be replaced with anything…Columbus stumbling upon ‘the Americas’ for Europe was a massive event in World History. But perhaps more light should be shed on the thriving civilizations that were grounded here prior to European contact– those are often forgotten.” I then asked Mr. Sinden what he thought the American government can do to appease everybody; he believes this is simply impossible. He explained that while many places celebrate “Indigenous People’s Day”, other states with a large Italian-American community would lose an emblematic figure in their history. In the end, Mr. Sinden agreed that what’s important is that, “everyone is educated on the truth of what occurred when Europeans landed in the Americas and to try our hardest to learn from it.”

Another teacher who has discussed this topic in her classes is Ms. Halter. Similar to Mr. Sinden, Ms. Halter believes that “Columbus can be acknowledged for his contributions to history, but he should not be honored with fanfare or confetti. If we as an American society don’t condemn violence and indignity, how does that represent our cultural values?” She also expressed her willingness to replace Columbus Day with “Indigenous People’s Day” as it was first introduced in 1992 by the city of Berkley, California and has since then been adopted by 67 cities throughout the United States. Ms. Halter then stated that for her, “the commemoration of Columbus’ discoveries represents the institutionalization and acceptance of injustice. Of course, I recognize the gumption it must have taken to herd the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria across the Atlantic; however, in the advent of Columbus’ arrival, Native populations decreased by 90%. She said that Columbus’ actions are the embodiment of genocide.

In my opinion, Christopher Columbus shouldn’t have a holiday dedicated in his honor. However, I do think that it is important to preserve the physical history that represents both Columbus and his voyage across the Atlantic as a way of remembering the world’s troubled past. The barbaric acts he committed against Native Americans are unjustifiable and must be properly condemned. With the support of several states who have refused to celebrate Columbus, I believe this holiday should be replaced with a day in honor of Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian man who is more prevalent in U.S. History than Christopher Columbus. In the end, the world’s support of Christopher Columbus is as monstrous as the acts committed by Columbus himself.

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