I find it interesting that I have not written about this until now. Perhaps I wasn’t prepared in the best way to really voice my opinion on Columbus Day. Over the past years, I haven’t given the attention that it needed. I usually just ignored it all together because there is no reason to celebrate such a day. However, while learning about things from Black in Latin America, I realize that this day should be addressed on this blog.
Lets talk about this often romanticized word called discovery. A dictionary defines discover as “to be the first, or the first of one’s group or kind, to find, learn of, or observe.” Christopher Columbus is talked about as this explorer that discovered the free world. I wont talk about how he got lost or that he thought he found the other side of China, but I will talk about how he wasn’t the first to the free world. That is not to claim that someone else, like the Vikings as an example, beat him to this. It means the simple fact that no one can discover a place that is already inhabited.
To believe that he discovered something means that one would subscribe to the European-Anglo version on the world. That leads me to the second definition of discover, “to learn about for the first time in one’s experience.” This is the state of history being shown from Anglo side. This was a new thing for Spain at that time. Clearly this was a discovery to them. It is very much like when an astronomer finds a new planet. It is new to them, but just because you find a penny on the floor does not mean you discovered money.
From the way it was explained to me in High School, today is very much a celebrated day. There was no mention of the subjection. There was no mention of the massacre that ensued. Absolutely no mention of the raping and the pillaging of a people that were deemed worthless. History books often show that Native Americans were on the opposite side. They are viewed in history as the people that Americans had to defend their livelihood against and making it seem that peace treaties were made to maintain a very delicate peace that was consistently broken.
Columbus day is constant reminder to those, like me, who “discovered” the truth about this day. One could say that this day was created by the establishment as a subliminal message to those who were and are victims of Colonial Imperialism. I recently heard the term Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome which deals with the mentality of always thinking, as people of color, we are not worth anything. The images of what we were and what we are only make us self destructive. So is there a similar term for Native Americans? Post Traumatic Columbus Syndrome perhaps? I am not yet versed in these terms.
I call this day what it is, Massacre Day. That may be a tad harsh for some people but I think I am being very generous with this title. I could have called it Genocide Day, or Rape a Heathen Day, or Give Small Pox to a Native day. Please understand, when talking about the effect of Columbus in the new world there has to be that knowledge that entire peoples were wiped away. Their histories are gone and for the most part, can never be told. These are people that are, quite potentially, my ancestors.
More importantly, I bring this up as a constant reminder to those people who talk enough garbage about “Homeland Security” and the protection of our borders from illegals. Mexicans were here before any of were here as well. The Manifest Destiny gave people this notion that we as “Americans” own this land and should push the natives as far as we can from it. Of course, now, the land belong to the corporations but that is another blog post.
Discovery is a big word and like most words in the dictionary, most people have very little concept of what it means. Sure Columbus found something that was new to him and his side of the world and yes it was a big deal. He was the reason why two land masses are now connected, but at what cost? I often wondered if my teachers in grammar school knew the truth about this day. Were they forced to just stick to the book? It is our responsibility to teach both sides of History so that we understand where we have been and where we are going.