Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Do not celebrate "Columbus Day"

Columbus Day is celebrated every year by Americans on October 12th when in 1492, Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo) explored the Americas. We refer to him as the "Father of the New World." Between 1492 and 1503, Columbus completed four round-trip voyages, which mark the beginning of the European exploration and colonization of the American continents. All of this sounds very humble. It's a common misconception that he was trying to prove the world was round, which everyone already knew in the 6th century. And it's a common misconception that he was the first European to explore the Americas, which he was NOT, and in fact was preceded by the Norse expedition led by Leif Ericson 500 years earlier. And actually he never set foot on the mainland of North America.
Christopher Columbus' sole intentions were to enslave people to find gold for him, which led to the genocide of the Hispaniola natives.

Before 1492, the island inhabited above 3 million Taino Indians (native population of Haiti); and within 20 years the population was reduced to 60,000 peoples, which were completely extinct within 50 years. Millions of people were killed. This prompted Columbus to begin shipping African slaves to the island, which inadvertently makes Columbus "The Father of the Transatlantic Slave trade".

Columbus sought out to expand Christian religious influence to the indigenous people. To him, the indigenous people needed Christianity because they were mere heathens, but mostly because they were not white or rich. The reason Columbus was funded for his expedition in the first place was to convert "heathens" into Christians in an effort for European governments to control them.
Columbus had to find gold so he could pay back the investors. Because he needed gold, he also needed slaves to find this gold. Because he needed slaves, he would need swords, hunting dogs, cannons, and all sorts of weaponry to force the people to work for him. This resulted in war, rape, and horrific accounts that are shared in Columbus' personal journal.
Columbus still had not enough gold to pay back the Queen, so he used tactics described in the quote below from Howard Zinn--which really portrays the narrative of Christopher Columbus:

"Now, from his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition into the interior. They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend. In the year 1495, they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were put up for sale by the archdeacon of the town, who reported that, although the slaves were 'naked as the day they were born,' they showed 'no more embarrassment than animals.' Columbus later wrote: 'Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.'
But too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, where he and his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. American Indians found without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death."

Bartolome De Las Casas, one of Columbus' men, was an eye witness to the atrocities. For example in one single day, he says the Spanish soldiers dismembered, beheaded, or raped 3000 native people. Other stories included cutting off the legs of children; men would test if they could cut a person in half; poured people full of boiling soap; and the list goes on.

In relation to the Syrian crisis, I remember watching a recent video of a Hungarian camerawoman continually tripping Syrian refugees as they ran with their children. And I think "there is still white vs brown mentality" all over the world, and it stems from this glorification of the "white hero".
And I want to share a quote that it puts it better than I do, from Bill Bigelow of the Huffington Post, "If Black people's lives mattered in our society, it would be inconceivable that we would honor the father of the slave trade with a national holiday. The fact that we have this holiday legitimates a curriculum that is contemptuous of the lives of peoples of color".

Masked by positive Columbus myths and celebrations, the United States government and citizens avoid taking responsibility for their own mindfulness (or actions). One action they could possibly take now is STOP CELEBRATING COLUMBUS DAY, and encourage all schools to stop the justification of celebrating this day because of tradition. 


  1. Columbus Day sucks. I think we should still celebrate Thanksgiving though (but without the turkey slaughter). I like the idea of the American Dream. White people in Europe also suffered under the feudal and exploitative regimes there, and the American Dream of escaping into the wilderness of the American continent and living a free existence off the land is a beautiful thing. There is nothing wrong with the white man living in America, as long as they treat all their fellow Americans (including the natives) and the environment with respect.

  2. I find it disgusting that there are still countries that bear names like 'The Ivory Coast' - that is, countries named after the plunder colonialists could extract from it, thus making slavery and tribute (rather than freedom and self-sufficiency) part of their cultural identity. Countries should be named after local cities or geographical features, mythological figures - things like that. The trend among some countries to discard their colonial heritage recently pleases me (for example, Fiji has adopted a new flag without British emblems and New Zealand is planning to as well). I hope it continues.

    1. Thanks for the comment and information.
      I have been hearing more stories of renaming sites, mountains, streets in an effort to show solidarity with indigenous people, and stop glorifying racist attitudes/people from the past that sometimes get viewed as a hero or symbol.
      When I think of the Ivory Coast, I think of the children that get used for slave labor in harvesting chocolate.