Columbus did not discover America, but we have now discovered who Columbus truly was
But this is not the past, and today there’s a real question about how someone can discover a place where people have already lived for hundreds of years. The other problem with Columbus Day is simply this: Columbus murdered and enslaved the people he encountered in America.
So, now, in places like Philadelphia, Columbus Day is not a thing anymore. Instead, it’s Indigenous People’s Day.
This fight over the legacy of Columbus, who was from what’s now known as Italy, has become a fight over Italians’ place in American history. There’s a statue of Columbus in South Philly that became the focal point of protests last summer. People who believed that Columbus was a hero went to surround the statue, claiming they were there to protect it. People who were against the statue demanded its removal.
There were clashes, and lawsuits, and countersuits, and the City eventually covered the statue to maintain public safety. Two judges ruled on the statue over the weekend, with the last saying the statue must remain covered, supporting the city’s decision for public safety.
All of that is ironic to me, since Native people would have been much safer if Columbus had never come here. It’s ironic because the ancestors of the Italians now fighting over the statue were not welcome when they came to America in the early 1900s.
Was Columbus a hero? I guess it depends on who you ask. But to pretend we should honor a man who murdered, enslaved and raped native people is another example of who we are as a country. Too many of us would rather believe lies than truth. But for those who want a dose of reality, the truth is that it’s hard to discover a place when people are already there. That is the truth of Columbus, and the truth shall set you free.
Photo: Grave of Christopher Columbus By. Ed Schipul