Revolt in Ship Shape: School District Cancels a Columbus Vessel Cartoon, but Is It in Vain?

(AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)

Does anything mean anything anymore?

Well, it seems meaningful to symbolically gesture against things said to mean something mean.

Take, for instance, a California school board’s recent revolt.

The group is going against the grain of its home town, which made a now-controversial commitment decades ago.

As relayed by a local outlet, in 1971, the city council adopted an image for the city seal.

Their doted-on design: a drawing of the Santa Maria, a vessel carrying Christopher Columbus to the continent.

From History.com:

On August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus and his crew set sail from the port of Palos in southern Spain on three vessels: la Santa Clara (Niña), la Pinta and la Santa Gallega (Santa Maria). Two of the ships, the Niña and Pinta, were tiny by today’s standards—only 50 to 70 feet from bow to stern—but prized for their speed and maneuverability. The Santa Maria, Columbus’s flagship, was a larger, heavier cargo ship.

But 50 years later, the area’s Joint Union High School District is lunging at the logo.

As it turns out, some see it as a ship of shame.

Local news lays it out:

[S]everal students and community members say is reminiscent of a shameful history of genocide and violence against Indigenous peoples at the hands of the Italian explorer.

Therefore, on Tuesday, the board canceled the Columbus-related craft on future mastheads, business cards, and all other district materials.

A new emblem is in the works.

In the meantime, Pioneer Valley High senior Yaquilina Auirre told SMT she’s delighted by the big difference:

“When they remove the logo, for me and the community, it would be really symbolic showing that the district is willing to change … it would show Indigenous students support, that we’ve got your back, that you’re allowed to embrace your culture.”

Future Leaders of America youth organizer Angel Lopez looks forward to what can happen in the situation’s wake:

“Moving forward, I think it can be important to address the anti-Indigenous bullying, derogatory comments and racism experienced by Indigenous students in these school settings.”

As of late, Columbus hasn’t exactly been hailed a hero.

In June of last year, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced the City of Brotherly Love should remove a monument to the man who — school children were once taught — “sailed the ocean blue.”

The world according to Jim:

“Like many communities across the country, Philadelphia is in the midst of a much-needed reckoning about the legacy of systemic racism and oppression in this country and around the world. Part of that reckoning requires reexamining what historical figures deserve to be commemorated in our public spaces.”

Apropos of intense analysis…

“In recent weeks, clashes between individuals who support the statue…and those who are distressed by its existence have deteriorated — creating a concerning public safety situation that cannot be allowed to continue.”

That same summer, 97,000 people petitioned to replace a Columbus effigy in New Jersey with that of black transgender icon Marsha P. Johnson.

As described on Change.org at the time:

[S]he was revered and was an inspiration to many in the LGBT+ community. She was a part of the Gay Liberation Front and staged a sit-in protest at NYU when the administration cancelled a dance sponsored by gay organizations. She also co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with her close friend Sylvia Rivera. They established a shelter for homeless, gay and trans kids called the STAR house, where they provided shelter, food, clothing and emotional support. She was referred to as “Saint Marsha” because of the things she did for New York’s LGBT+ community.

Back to California, concerning students’ defense of the “indigenous,” historians say America’s tribes came to the continent from elsewhere — like Columbus.

As for symbolic gestures, some might question the effectiveness of Pioneer Valley High’s revolution.

After all, the school is part of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.

And that would make sense, as it’s in the city of Santa Maria.

The Santa Maria City Council chose the Santa Maria for Santa Maria’s logo.

These days, perhaps it’s the gesture itself that means something.

So as the Santa Maria Times reports (I withheld the outlet’s name for the big reveal), the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District in the city of Santa Maria is socking it to the Santa Maria City Council by refusing to give oxygen to the idea of the Santa Maria — by canceling a cartoon.

And that means something.

Unfortunately, the ship will never know — like the meaning of many things, it surely sunk long ago.

-ALEX

 

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