Today is October 12th, which is many things in different parts of the world (Día de la Raza in Mexico) but in the U.S. is officially “Columbus Day.”
I wasn’t going to write anything about the holiday since, I figured, at this point in our collective consciousness we don’t need another person explaining why it is offensive and problematic. Then I went to Twitter, where the phrase “Happy Columbus Day” was trending. When I read the related feed of these tweets, very few seemed to have any conception of the “other side” to this day.
So here it goes…
Columbus Day is nothing–let me repeat, NOTHING–other than the commemoration of European imperialism in the Americas. Nothing. You can’t put a good spin on what came after. Disneyland doesn’t absolve a series of deliberate and knowing attempts to commit massive genocide.
Since most of the tens upon tens of millions of indigenous Americans who died in the centuries after this Italian accidentally landed in the Caribbean died due to disease–most probably never even saw a European before they perished of smallpox and other ailments–you might think this is an overblown reaction on my part. It’s not. Disease was often used as a conscious weapon in the war to destroy native America, both by the Spanish, French, Portuguese, and later, the British. Even in those many instances when it was not so, the imperialists are not absolved. They shouldn’t have been here in the first place.
And that’s what it comes down to. The global forces which propelled this Italian to sail under the Spanish flag an unleash waves of death are forces with which we still struggle today. They are suggested by words like racism, cultural superiority, religious intolerance, and war. They are contained within the results of over 100 million people being dead in less than a century.
Today is the day all these things tragedies and more were unfurled on the Americas. Human history has never been the same. And I’m not saying that in a good way.