Can We Stop Celebrating Bad People Yet?

Featured image: Photo by Tony Webster, edited in Affinity Designer. Free to use under CC BY 2.0 (explained here). Audio: recorded with Voice Recorder by quality apps, edited in Audacity.

4 for Now

This needs to be said since, judging by my Twitter feed on Monday (and my 2020 wall calendar), some people are still celebrating the rapist and murderer who stumbled upon the Bahamas when he was looking for China back in the 1490’s.

We all know the popular version that most of us in the U.S. learned in public school. I won’t waste our time repeating it. This revisionist junk problematically leaves out most of the facts:

  1. To quote the Oatmeal, Columbus “discovered the New World much like a meteorite discovered dinosaurs.” The Taíno, natives of what we now call the Caribbean, were living their lives, minding their own business—for 14,000 years—when a lost and obviously confused Genoan dropped anchor off their shores.
  2. In true white man fashion, he decided that wherever he had landed was precisely where he wanted to be. He figured he had found a shortcut to Asia and was convinced—to the day he died—that he had arrived at China and islands off its coast.
  3. There’s all the horrible things he did to the Taíno once he arrived. I won’t get into the horrific details here, but suffice it to say, things got bloody.
  4. Not only did his and his men’s actions (and foreign diseases) decimate the Native population of the Caribbean, but his forcing the Taíno to supply him with gold reduced the demand out of Africa’s Gold Coast. Slavery became the #1 commodity there.
  5. In case it wasn’t clear, by “forcing the Taíno to supply him with gold,” I mean slave labor. He even took hundreds of Taíno back to Spain to be sold, starting the transatlantic slave trade.

We can finally all agree he wasn’t a good guy, right?

It’s important to remember—even though this specific series of events happened over 500 years ago—that prolonged harm doesn’t just disappear when spun or swept under the rug. When we don’t condemn it and don’t change the system to prevent more harm, it perpetuates.

Instead of celebrating the thief, abuser, rapist, and murderer, let’s celebrate the Native peoples: his victims, the survivors, their descendants, and the other Indigenous peoples who are the rightful stewards of the land we’re on.

And let’s remember they deserve acknowledgement and respect every day, not just on Indigenous Peoples Day.

Here are some Indigenous people and organizations to follow:

4 for Later

  1. The Oatmeal’s take on Columbus [images only] (13-minute read). Note: These are images only. My apologies to anyone using screen readers. The general information is the same as from my other sources, the major differences are the Oatmeal’s unique voice and illustrations.
  2. Commentary from Michael Coard: Anyone celebrating Columbus Day is racist, ignorant, or both (11-minute read)
  3. 8 Myths and Atrocities About Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day by Vincent Schilling (11-minute read). Scroll down for a 10-minnute related video.
  4. Black Before Columbus Came: The African Discovery of America by Dan Von Hoyel (20-minute video)
  5. Bonus: I had put A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn on my Amazon list, then stumbled across the text available online. Chapter One, about Columbus and the Natives, is about a 71-minute read.