Tomorrow is Columbus Day. Like a lot of folk, I never gave the holiday much thought over the years.
But I have paid attention of it over the last few years and I’ve come to dread the day.
Tomorrow, when I look at my Facebook or Twitter feed, I will see a number of posts maligning the day and the man. Now I get why Columbus Day has become troublesome. Columbus wasn’t a nice man at all. I’m even up for changing the focus of the day. What I am not for is the amount of self-righteous preening on social media where everyone is falling over themselves to share their “outrage” against Columbus and all that happened in his wake. It amounts to nothing and changes nothing. As blogger Nathaniel Gives said last year, I doubt that a lot of the people complaining are going to do anything serious like maybe give back land taken or even trying to improve the plight of Native Americans. Several cities have voted to change Columbus Day to something like Indigenous Peoples Day, but unless we are doing things that helps educate the public about Indigenous Peoples the excercise amounts to little.
If people are really concerned about this, if they want to change Columbus Day to something more fitting, then maybe people should look back to the Martin Luther King holiday. In the 30 years since it became an official holiday, communities accross the country take part in events that both teach and celebrate the life of Dr. King. If people want to create an alternative holiday, then start spending time teaching communities about Native Americans. Have Native American speaks talk about their customs and traditions. Make Indigenous Peoples Day or whatever the hell you call it something that educates people.
And what about Columbus? Matthew Inman, the writer of the popular Oatmeal cartoon wrote something for Columbus Day last year. Someone it does dabble in the standard denunciations, but he does say something that is important to remember: “History is full of terrible people doing terrible things, so instead of casting a shadow where there is already darkness, I’d much prefer to cast a light.” He then proceeds to talk about Bartolme de las Casas, a priest who worked to end slavery in the New World. Columbus wasn’t a great guy, by any stretch of the imagination. While I can understand why Italian-Americans pushed for Columbus Day’s creation, this is a different day.
So, sure work for an alternative. But do something more than tear down a historical figure. Teach people. Help those indigenous peoples who are still dealing with the after affects of Columbus and everything after. But do me a favor: if you don’t plan on doing anything else but going on Facebook, stop thinking like you are some kind of angel for “speaking out.” It’s lazy and self righteous and won’t make a dime’s worth of difference.
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