I went into a store the other day and saw a sign that said that the business would be closed in observation of Columbus day. As I left the store a gnawing feeling persisted in my stomach. I didn’t realize any businesses still recognized Columbus day and I was unsettled about the idea that some still did.
When I was in school we learned about American history. They often started with Columbus’ exploration of the “New World.” I remember they made us learn a rhyme that helped us remember the facts about Christopher Columbus. “In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” When my father heard me recite the rhyme I remember him sitting me down and telling me what made no sense to me at the time. My father said that not everything they would teach me in school was correct. As a child I remember thinking that was crazy. Why would a teacher, under the support of the entire school system, teach us something false? My father told me that there were other people who had traveled to North America before Columbus and that even those people found people already living there. My father said “You can’t discover something that wasn’t lost.”
Despite the fact that I couldn’t conceive of everything my father said, a seed had been planted in me. He had challenged me to ask my teacher about Amerigo Vespucci and Leif Ericson. He told me to ask about how Columbus discovered a place with people already living there and what Columbus did to those people he met in North America. So, I went to school and asked my teacher those questions. She answered vaguely about Vespucci and Erikson but my challenge about the Native Americans made her silent. She basically brushed my inquiries off because she need to “move on with the lesson.” I think that was the day I began to be a truth seeker. I didn’t like knowing that I was being intentionally misinformed. I realized that information gives power to those who wield it and those who never question or seek answers for themselves are manipulated.
The Birth of American Colonization and Imperialism
Why would we possibly want to celebrate Columbus day in this day and age, with all information we have regarding the truth about Christopher Columbus? I can only think that because America is very good at ignoring and/or disregarding the truth in favor of tradition and nostalgia. We treat the truth as if it is some annoying insect with which we have decided that we can’t kill but won’t be bother by. It’s an ignorant and sad fact. There are businesses and organizations that won’t even celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday; however, we can still commemorate Columbus because it represents a historical moment in American history.
Columbus day can and should be remembered. It should be remembered for being the starting point of European colonization which eventually led to slaughter and enslavement for the “New World” (by New World I mean new to Europeans). It is shameful that European culture was so narcissistic and self absorbed that they didn’t imagine a world outside their own and when they “discovered” it, they couldn’t handle or respect that fact that someone had already “discovered” it. Those indigenous people had to be barbarians that were not worthy or the land, gold, and riches of the land the already populated. So surely they needed the Europeans to come and control it for them. And if those native people didn’t acquiesce, Europe would take it by force. This was colonization and imperialism.
It is not wonder, then, that the European colonists who broke away from Europe to inhabit North America, held within them the same principle of fascism and destruction. Everything they despised the monarchy for, they brought with them to America. The foundation of America is built upon this European inspired need for domination and conquest in order to show themselves powerful and better than anything else they encounter.
If we need another paid holiday, can’t we change the name and purpose of this one and still give people the time off?? Or better yet maybe we should celebrate this day the way Latin Americans do with Dia de la Raza, where they celebrate the resistance against the colonizing invaders. I would love to celebrate Native Americans Day or True Americans Day or The Only Americans Day or something that would recognize the Native Americans as the initiators of the first resistance against imperialism. Maybe take the day to give respect to the descendants of those Native Americans, who truly are Americans. But as usual, America is addicted to ignorance and cannot stand to correct its errors.
If Columbus day means anything to America, it is this: that we can trace the history of our greatest sins and flaws. That after all these centuries, we have yet to outgrow our fascist belief that the world needs us to lead it (by force if necessary). So if I should think of Columbus and do anything on Columbus Day, I should repent on behalf of America. As an American I should spend Columbus Day begging forgiveness for the blood that was shed, for the lies that were told, for the enslavement that allowed the country where I know live to exist. If nothing else we should allow ourselves to take this day to see what we have become and how we started on the wrong path so long ago, it’s repulsive to think that we haven’t yet evolved to a point that we can see people as human beings and not opportunities for exploitation, that we cannot see the differences among us as the chance to learn and be better. Instead we fear what we don’t understand, never take the time to understand it, and destroy it when it won’t become like us. That’s the legacy of Christopher Columbus.
I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man