Reconsider Columbus Day

In the U.S., today is the National Observance of Columbus Day. While perhaps the least celebrated of all U.S. public holidays, its continued existence and observance is incredibly disturbing, as the video above by Reconsider Columbus Day notes. Transcript:

The black and white video features a number of alternating unidentified individuals facing the camera and speaking a single line at a time:

October 12th is Columbus Day
A day that our government has deemed worthy of remembrance
But with all due respect
With all due respect
With all due respect
There’s an ugly truth that has been overlooked
For way too long
Columbus committed heinous crimes
Against the Indigenous people of the Caribbean
And millions of natives throughout the Americas
And Columbus set the stage for the slave trade in the new world
So please
Please reconsider if this is a man that you want to honor
Reconsider if you want to celebrate the crimes of Columbus
It’s not your fault
It happened a long time ago
But remaining neutral
And pretending like it didn’t happen
Or that it doesn’t still impact us today
So please
Take the day to learn the whole story
Celebrate the people who were here first
Petition for a nationally recognized Indigenous holiday
So please
Reconsider how you plan to spent October 12
Reconsider the story of Columbus
Visit ReconsiderColumbusDay.org

The petition is available here, and here is a list of the Reconsider Columbus Day partners that could use your support.

Cleveland American Indian Movement (AIM) also has more information and resources on why Columbus Day should be opposed. And Jessica Yee has written a post at Racialicious on the subject of Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving, which is also today. Please feel free to leave additional resources about Indigenous rights and/or Columbus Day specifically in the comments.


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24 Responses to Reconsider Columbus Day

  1. Hel says:

    It was not Columbus, it was the spanish kingdom and the conquerers that came after him. He was not a genocide, the spanish kingdom was the responsible of the slavery, and the genocide. I think that is a good thing to remember the indigenous people, the genocide, and the land theft, but the catholic king are queen, and Carlos V after them, and all the habsburgs are more responsible than Columbus who was just the man who discover the way to get to America.

    • Cara says:

      Hel, I think you’re wildly missing the point if you think that anyone is really arguing that Columbus is single-handedly responsible for every atrocity that was committed. The point of the holiday is to celebrate Columbus’ arrival in America, and his “accomplishments.” But Columbus’ arrival was the beginning of a series of horrific atrocities including genocidal practices, and yes, including many crimes both committed by him personally or by his crew. Columbus and his team were murderers, rapists, thieves, and colonizers. Period. And celebrating him and his voyage is a slap in the face to all of those who were brutally killed as well as to their ancestors.

      • Cara says:

        … which is all to say that if your point is that Columbus is not the only responsible party and many others also need to be held accountable for their crimes, I agree with you. But that point is not coming across particularly clearly in your comment and reads to me more like apologism for Columbus’ actions than a call to recognize all responsible parties. Further, there’s a reason that Columbus is being particularly singled out here — he’s the only one that the U.S. has a national holiday in celebration of. This isn’t just about Columbus and his actions, but also about U.S. mythology and continued decision to honor such a horrible person.

  2. scrumby says:

    I think it’s only still around because of and evil conglomerate of banking and discount furniture/electronics lobbiests.

  3. Cactus says:

    http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/10/debunking-myths-of-columbus-day.html

    from ianclarkonline.com

    TW for mentions of rape (not surprising for a video about Columbus). Other than that, I present without comment for its succinct analysis of the problem. Thanks to Adrienne of Native Appropriations for drawing it to my attention.

  4. Kristen J. says:

    Wait…Wasn’t this changed to Discoverer’s Day way back in the day?

  5. Jadey says:

    From a non-Native Canadian perspective, I know that I grew up thinking that the American holidays (Columbus Day and the November version of Thanksgiving) were more colonialist than the Canadian ones. I was used to seeing images of “pilgrims and indians” in US media depictions of Thanksgiving that I did not grow up with in my own Thanksgiving celebrations, which mostly centered around turkeys and autumn leaves and family (in my experience). We don’t have the specific equivalent of a Columbus Day, that I know of. I’ve always had a lot more trouble with Canada Day, the celebration of the country’s founding.

    But as of late I have been challenging myself on this. Even without explicit celebratory references to colonialism (and this was just my childhood experience, which I can’t assume to be representative – I’m sure this wasn’t always the case and that it’s not necessarily always the case now), there’s still a failure to challenge our colonialist foundations. The quiet kind of erasure is as problematic as the loud kind. Something I run into a lot (and something I have done myself) is a tendency for white and non-Native Canadians to suggest that American racism or colonialism is “worse”, justifying our own complacency. But the same problem can express itself in a different way in a different context, and be just as bad. There doesn’t have to be a better or worse comparison.

  6. Kristen J. says:

    My bad…shouldn’t comment within 30 minutes of waking up. Google indicates Discoverer’s Day is Hawaii’s observance. Although interestingly other states observe differently (or don’t observe at all) so I’m not sure we should call it a “national” holiday. Federal holiday would be a better description.

  7. Hel says:

    I can’t care less for Columbus, I know that he was a thief, a rapist, and that his greed was the beginning of a massive genocide. But he was not the only one, he was the first of the conquerers and we have to remember Pizarro, Cortés, the encomiendas, the Habsburgs and so on. Sorry if my point was not clear.

  8. anna says:

    Yeah, but Columbus is the only one who has a federal holiday. I say we should work to revoke that.

  9. Austin Nedved says:

    It’s unfortunate that Columbus Day is considered to be some sort of national or federal holiday. His actions resulted in the death and enslavement of millions, and the mere fact that he discovered America (you know, the best country in the world) does not exculpate him of those crimes.

    But before we get too full of ourselves, it’s worth noting that removing Columbus day from our list of national holidays requires no sacrifice on our part whatsoever. So while we may be helping the racial minorities he oppressed by removing today from our list of holidays, let’s not pretend we’re heroes for doing it.

    • Cara says:

      Austin:

      1. I don’t think that anyone was trying to pretend to be a hero by calling for decency

      2. Those who I’ve linked to who are calling for Columbus Day to be abolished are Native themselves, and generally have much larger agendas regarding Indigenous rights, which I’d hope that readers people would generally support.

      3. And so, speaking of which — “we” as separate from “the racial minorities” who “we’re” “helping”? “The racial minorities” are the ones leading this campaign. And not everyone reading this blog is white. So. Seriously. WTF?

  10. Austin Nedved says:

    And so, speaking of which — “we” as separate from “the racial minorities” who “we’re” “helping”? “The racial minorities” are the ones leading this campaign. And not everyone reading this blog is white. So. Seriously. WTF?

    You’re white, and so am I, and so are a good deal of the people commenting here. When I used the term “we” to refer to white people, I was addressing you and other white people who comment here. I didn’t mean to marginalize any racial minorities, I was just addressing wthies.

    My point was, we should at least acknowledge that while what we’re doing to eliminate Columbus Day may make oppressed people feel a lot better, we aren’t making a sacrifice. We as white people are not making a sacrifice when we agitate for Indigenous rights, either.

    I don’t think that anyone was trying to pretend to be a hero by calling for decency

    Well, no one came right out and said “I’m a hero for calling for decency!” It was just something we as white people need to keep in mind when we talk about giving up this sort of privilege. Again, I am in no way suggesting that what all of us (whites and racial minorities) are doing here is unimportant.

  11. Chally says:

    Austin Nedved:
    You’re white, and so am I, and so are a good deal of the people commenting here.When I used the term “we” to refer to white people, I was addressing you and other white people who comment here.I didn’t mean to marginalize any racial minorities, I was just addressing wthies.  

    Yet you still managed to leave white people unmarked, and therefore replicate the dynamics Cara is talking about. I for one don’t appreciate being sidelined by an invisible white referent.

  12. Austin Nedved says:

    Yet you still managed to leave white people unmarked, and therefore replicate the dynamics Cara is talking about. I for one don’t appreciate being sidelined by an invisible white referent.

    I’m sorry. I’ll work on that.

  13. lostingenerica says:

    I don’t like that they say “with all due respect” in this video.

  14. Sheila says:

    I’m pretty sure that the Canadian Thanksgiving is not a counterpart to Columbus Day. A counterpart is a “thing closely resembling another, esp. in function”. Canada’s Thanksgiving is apparently more connected to European traditions relating to harvest festivals than American traditions and the first Thanksgiving dinner in the area now known as Canada actually occurred before the first American one. The coinciding of the American Columbus Day and the Canadian Thanksgiving occurred when the Canadian government decided to prevent Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving from occurring during the same week (which happened between WWI and 1957)

    However all of this of course does not mean that Canada should ignore it’s part in the genocide against the First Nations people of the America’s.

  15. Carol says:

    I thought it was weird at first not only that they said “with all due respect” but felt it was important to say 3 times. Why would Columbus get respect at all? But then I realized that because the message is directed at anyone who truly celebrates Columbus, the video meant to say, somewhat diplomatically, “I respect your opinion…but you have been misinformed. Here’s the truth.”

  16. Dank says:

    I think that the best way to get Italian Americans to accept the loss of Columbus Day is to offer them a replacement holiday celebrating someone from Italian history. I nominate Leonardo Da Vinci. The day could be a celebration of the intersection between art and science.

  17. LC says:

    I’m sort of with Sheila here on the Canadian Thanksgiving. I’ve never seen it portrayed as the “Happy Natives helping the Whites” myth that Thanksgiving is in the US. It certainly doesn’t celebrate Columbus, who no one really cares about here. I may have a skewed perspective because I’m in Quebec though. Perhaps those elements show up out West.

    Canada has a pretty atrocious history concerning First Nations, but Thanksgiving has always been just a harvest festival here – something I think pretty much every culture that deals with a harvest pre-winter has.

  18. ch says:

    @Kristen J.: Yeah, despite still being an official federal holiday, Columbus Day is certainly not celebrated everywhere. It’s certainly falling very much out of favor in the liberal enclaves in which I’ve always lived, and I’m glad for that (though I wish it was out of favor nationwide and off the federal holiday registers, as well.)

    My high school did give us Columbus Day off, but called it “Indigenous People’s Day.” Since then I’ve attended three different institutions of higher learning, none of which observed Columbus Day at all except by occasional student protests.

  19. Jim says:

    “I’ve never seen it portrayed as the “Happy Natives helping the Whites” myth that Thanksgiving is in the US. ”

    This is a great example of how pictures really do lie, in this case making a snapshot stand in for an entire process. The Wampanoag really did help the English; in fact the Englsih could never have survived with the agriculture and skills they had, but it wasn’t some “happy natives” thing. They had a perectly good strategic interest in having a manageable commubnity of English immigrants around, to hold land against the encroaching Narragansett and as trade partners. The snapshot also leaves out the part where the next generration in Wampanoag government decided to cleanse the Englsih out of the area. It gets mislabeled a “rebellion”; it was nothing of the kind.

    The same calculation led the Powhatan to tolerate an immigrant community, even more feckless, on the Chesapeake Bay. In that case the strategic threat was encroaching Susquehannah. What a tragic irony – if they had just wairted for the Iroquois to exterminate the Susquehannah, which they did later, they Powhatan could have saved themsleves from an uncontainable flood of immigrants.

  20. Laura says:

    And you know the best part? 12 October is National Day in my country, Spain. National Day. With military marches and solemn acts full of politicians, royal family members and all the rest.

    It’s fucking embarrassing.

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