Christoper Columbus didn't "discover" America. He invaded it. It's time our country recognized its colonial history of white supremacy.
As we approach the season of fall, every single year, there are two questions that arise without fail. The first, of course, is how early is too early to hang up Christmas lights? The second and definitely more important one is whether or not to celebrate Columbus Day. Here's the short answer: No. As more and more states and cities in the United States ditch the racist and oppressive holiday in favor of Indigenous Peoples' Day, there's no better time to be having this discussion. Wisconsin officially became the sixth state this year to institute Indigenous Peoples' Day as a state-wide holiday in replacement of Columbus Day, joining five others, including Vermont, Maine, Louisiana, Michigan, and New Mexico, CBS News reports.
That means 12 states across the nation, as well as the District of Columbia, now celebrate the holiday. But why? Well, let's take it back to your middle school History class. While you may have been taught that Christopher Columbus, the Italian - and then Italian-American - explorer "discovered" America, your teacher and the textbooks they taught from couldn't have been more wrong. The truth is, there were other indigenous people who discovered this land and inhabited it long before Columbus so-called "discovered" it. He actually stumbled upon it - the explorer was trying to "discover" India, a country all the way across the globe, but found himself in America instead. Sounds like a crappy explorer to me, don't you think?
In fact, in his discovery of the "New World," Columbus never actually set foot upon the land that eventually became part of the 50 states of our country. He was a representative of the Spanish crown and none of his discoveries lead to the English settlement that gave rise to the United States. Despite the factual inaccuracies that we were forcefed as children, it is perhaps the false narrative that our country developed and regurgitated in our textbooks, curriculums, and celebrations that is most problematic and situates Columbus Day in a place devoid of moral and ethical value.
The egregious crimes and human rights violations he committed as a colonizer were the foundation of America's long history of oppression; He regularly used torture and mutilation to govern his colonies, was an active and cruel proponent of slavery and sexism, was singlehandedly responsible for the rapid decline of the native Taíno people, imported disease and illness (such as smallpox, influenza, and malaria) to the indigenous tribes of America, and utilized exploitative slavery as a means to kill off indigenous populations. Let us not forget the infamous incident of colonial germ warfare, wherein Columbus and his men gave indigenous peoples blankets (as a gesture of friendship) infected with smallpox in an effort to eradicate them and clear off the land. The 4th of July is, unfortunately, only a celebration of conquest.
There is no doubt, therefore, that celebrating a colonizer is to celebrate the atrocities of white supremacy and colonization itself. Congresswoman Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico (and one of the first two Native American women that were elected to Congress last year), stated, "Indigenous Peoples' Day is about acknowledging indigenous peoples' complex history in this country and celebrating the culture, heritage, and strength of native communities everywhere. Celebrating Columbus Day continues a dangerous narrative that erases Native American voices and minimizes the federal government's attempt at genocide and forced assimilation." She is now working on legislation that would make the second Monday of each October Indigenous Peoples' Day - nationwide. In a day and age when we violate the rights of indigenous tribes through the cultural, legal, economic, and social, celebrating Columbus Day sadly only adds salt to the still-open wound.