So today is the second Monday in October, more commonly known as Columbus Day. To be honest, I almost forgot because Rutgers didn’t give us the day off, which is really the only thing that counts in my mind.
With every passing Columbus Day, I notice more and more people realizing the fact that Christopher Columbus was actually a horrible person and shouldn’t be credited with anything, and that’s wonderful. I’m all for being critical of historical figures, especially when those historical figures were responsible for the rapes, murders, and torture of marginalized groups. This year, however, I’ve seen a push started by this article from The Oatmeal to stop calling it Columbus Day and switch to Bartolome Day, being that Columbus was The Worst Person Ever and Bartolome de las Casas was a pretty alright dude who eventually realized that slavery was wrong and then dedicated his life to advocating for the rights of native peoples.
My problem with this doesn’t come from a criticism of de las Casas, rather from the fact that we keep excluding the people whom the “discovery” of the “New World” directly affected. Namely, the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Matthew Inman (the guy who runs The Oatmeal) succeeded his essay by saying
“I know that the discovery of the New World means a lot of different things to a lot of different cultures. I like the sound of Bartolomé Day. If you don’t like that, call it Indigenous People’s Day. Or perhaps Chris-Columbus-was-a-turd Day. I’d even settle for just calling it MONDAY.”
but the problem with this is not that Bartolome Day sounds any worse; it’s that it takes the focus of the “discovery” of the Americas and shifts it to another slave-owning White dude instead of celebrating and remembering the people who really discovered them and suffered deeply because of it.
I’m really happy that people are finally coming around to the idea that Christopher Columbus is not a person to be celebrated, but I urge you all to consider thinking of this day as an Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than shifting focus to a reformed conquistador.