Colonizer Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic ocean and accidentally arrived in the Americas in 1492 but it isn’t really something worth celebrating considering the destruction, disease, violence, and genocide he brought with him. Rather, Columbus Day, which has been “celebrated’”on the second Monday of October since 1937 is a day of mourning for Indigenous people across the Americas.
This year, many of the festivities are going virtual due to the pandemic—but why are they even happening at all? It’s clear from the number of Columbus statues that have been unearthed during the anti-racism demonstrations that the Italian voyager isn’t our hero. Even without as many statues bearing his likeness across the country, Columbus remains revered as an important historical figure rather than being known for the bloodshed he caused.
When Columbus set foot in America’s he and his predecessors unleashed havoc. European colonizers were responsible for the death of at least 56 million Indigenous people across the Americas by the 1600s. This is still the biggest genocide in history. Yet some people, even Latinx, still hail Columbus as the founder of the “new world” who “saved savages.”
The movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day has been gaining momentum in recent years. We must honor the history and culture of the first people who inhabited the land without denying or diminishing the violence they endured when Europeans came to conquer their land.
Italian-Americans, we ask you sincerely, is this the claim to fame your community wants to support? Gov. Andrew Cuomo is against removing the statue of Columbus in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle as he believes the statue signifies “appreciation for the Italian-American contribution to New York.” We can think of many better Italian figures for this honor rather than a person who is the reason why Indigenous people today are still oppressed.