October 15, 2018

Goodbye, Columbus Day

“Columbus is everywhere. The Genoese explorer may have never set foot in North America, but he still managed to get his name and mug all over the Western Hemisphere. Most U.S. cities carry multiple references to Christopher Columbus—and not just on statues and street names, but the cities themselves. From Columbia, South Carolina to Columbus, Ohio, the Admiral of the Ocean Sea staked a hard-to-erase claim over millions of acres of the United States. Heck, the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia, is Columbus Country.

But in recent years, efforts to de-Columbus the U.S. have grown in strength and size, thanks to the famed navigator’s increasingly problematic historical reputation: Christopher Columbus, after all, kicked off a horrific genocide, treated non-white people as sub-human, and wasn’t even the first European to happen upon the Americas. Scores of cities and three states have replaced his namesake holiday with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Statues and memorials devoted to Columbus now draw the regular attention of protesters and vandals, while his parades are getting rebranded and cancelled. Are we sailing toward a New World without Columbus?

The notion of kicking Columbus out of his own holiday started back in 1977, at the United Nations’ International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas. But Berkeley, California, was the first U.S. city to formally replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day; its city council voted in the change in 1991 and it was first celebrated the following year in lieu of the Columbus Quincentennial, a nationwide celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas.”

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