Should Christopher Columbus be enshrined?
Should statues bearing his likeness retain respect?
Not in the view of some at a Washington state college.
During two days in late September, student panelists at $55,000-per-year Whitman College partook of a lecture about the anathematized explorer’s eponymous holiday.
Along the way, attendee Nell Falvey claimed a monument to the man — installed at the local courthouse — “glorifies colonialism and whiteness in a way that shouldn’t be welcomed…”
So reports the Whitman Wire:
In a conversation after the lectures, Falvey spoke about the irony of the statue in front of the court house. Christopher Columbus — a murderer, a slave owner and an eventual prisoner — stands tall on a pedestal in front of the town’s judiciary structure.
“Who is justice working for?” the student posed.
In its coverage, the school paper didn’t get everything right:
Public education in the United States has historically taught students that Christopher Columbus discovered the U.S.
Of course, the “unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America” was signed in 1776, whereas Columbus reached America in the 15th century.
It was 1787 before the ratification of the Constitution.
I’m not sure if they teach that now, but they used to.
In reality, Columbus enslaved Indigenous people throughout his travels and his role as an explorer led to a structural genocide of native tribes.
The Wire did point out that Christopher’s geographical reach was limited:
Although he reached South America, Columbus never set foot on U.S. soil, let alone North America. Despite this, he continues to be celebrated as an American hero.
He also, it seems, is perpetually maligned as the monster who murdered North America’s “Indians.”
I’d guess many a modern-day college graduate would claim Columbus wiped out the Washington Redskins.
Either way, consider a compilation of American Indians remarking on the man (Language Warning):
As for Whitman Professor Stan Thayne, he’d love to see the courthouse effigy 86’d.
He, too, considers it a symbol for which — if I understand correctly — nothing should ever be:
“I think the reason that there is an Italian American symbol in front of the court house is that for most people it isn’t an Italian American symbol. It’s a symbol of white America.”
These days, Caucasian Christopher is largely lacking in love.
In July, I reported that 97,000 people had petitioned to cancel a Columbus statue in the Big Apple.
Its proposed replacement: a memorial to gay liberation activist Marsha P. Johnson, who founded S.T.A.R. — Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.
The petition now boasts over 165,000 signatures.
And last month, the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District — in the California city of Santa Maria — voted to lose its logo…consisting of a drawing of the Santa Maria:
On Tuesday, the Santa Maria high school district board agreed to cease production of any new representations of its ship logo on business cards, mastheads, or other district supplies that have traditionally featured the image, and tasked Superintend… https://t.co/VX8CzcIZah
— Santa Maria Times (@SantaMariaTimes) September 16, 2021
Back to Professor Stan, he asked, “What’s the most appropriate way that we can be here on this land that was taken through coercion and violence?”
“Just ignoring Columbus Day isn’t enough,” he insisted.
His class certainly isn’t merely doing such — the lecture series eyed a history of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, something governments and other entities are progressively preferring to the classic Columbus Day.
What exactly does the new holiday laud?
First and foremost, I believe it celebrates not celebrating Columbus.
On another note, the Whitman Wire theorized as to why Italians became a seamless part of the country:
Their connection to Columbus’s nationality helped them assimilate into U.S. culture.
I’d venture to say that isn’t true. Generations of immigrants assimilated, not due to racial identity but because it was America — a beacon of hope, as a beacon of unity.
That light, l fear, has dimmed.
It seems to me America’s pendulum has swung.
And when it sways — like Columbus — it journeys far.
Not long ago, children were taught, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”
It’s not difficult to believe that — at a time of American innocence — the story of our beginning was simplified…and even sanitized.
After all, kids were told babies came from storks.
At this point, has the pendulum swung excessively the other way?
I’d say there’s a very good chance.
And such a thing is also for the birds.
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