‘Woke’ Descendant of Columbus Has Message for Fellow Americans
A “woke” descendant of Christopher Columbus visited last night and asked me to pass this along:
Dear fellow Americans:
Some of you have mixed feelings about honoring my two-dozen-times-removed-great-grandfather, Christopher Columbus.
Since the 18th century, when a number of cities and states began unofficial celebrations, our country has commemorated his 1492 landing in the Americas. Columbus Day became a federal holiday nearly 450 years later, and many people still consider it a dual celebration of his achievements and Italian-American heritage.
But to be clear, I’m not one of them.
Despite being a direct descendant, I can’t boast about my forebearer’s role in history. My thoughts on Columbus are aligned with NBA coach Greg Popovich’s recent comments before a San Antonio Spurs a preseason game.
“He initiated a New World genocide,” Popovich told reporters. “Beginning with him, he set in motion what followed: the annihilation of every indigenous person in Hispaniola, which is Haiti and the Dominican Republic today. He took slaves. He mutilated. He murdered.”
Those aren’t pleasant facts for Columbuses to swallow. But they’re facts, indeed, and we must live with those truths.
The same goes for descendants of other historical figures who committed atrocities against masses of fellow humans. Imagine tracing your lineage to leaders of Nazi Germany, Ma Zedong’s Regime, or the Armenian Genocide.
It’s hard to smile at their faces in old family photo albums.
You absolutely can still love your family members, and you should. But you certainly can’t be proud of their actions (unless you agree with such actions). That’s why I fully endorsed renaming Columbus Day, taking honor away from gramps and bestowing it on his victims instead.
President Joe Biden is the first president to mark the second Monday of October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
“For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures,” Biden wrote in a proclamation. “Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society.”
Keeping Columbus’ name on the holiday is indefensible. But removing it isn’t a knock on my family (just him). And it’s certainly not a knock on Italian Americans as a whole, though some use the argument as a defense for the traditional holiday name.
“That’s a silly argument,” Popovich said. “It’s like saying, ‘We should be proud of Hitler because we are German.’ It makes no sense. It’s about Columbus. It’s not about Italian Americans.”
The same reasoning applies to a current controversy on what should and shouldn’t be taught in our schools.
Some descendants of framers like Thomas Jefferson, traitors like Robert E. Lee, and segregationists like Strum Thurmond believe their forebearers are worthy of honor. These descendants want to feel proud about their lineage, not ashamed.
They shouldn’t beat themselves up for their ancestors’ actions.
But they also shouldn’t hide the truth because it hurts their feelings, or deny the truth because it keeps them in power.
Columbus and those who followed colonized the “New World,” sparking the transatlantic slave trade and the deaths of millions from murder and disease. Our country’s founders have much common with CC & Co., committing genocide against Native Americans and subjugating African Americans through generations of inheritable, chattel slavery, unprecedented in the world.
Unless you believe those actions were just, you won’t …
- Celebrate the actors — family or not
- Wave their flags
- Honor their remembrance
- Applaud their achievements
- Deny the consequences
What they did is shameful.
Don’t fall for the “it was simply the times” argument. Just like some people spoke in opposition as Germany lurched toward the Holocaust, some people spoke in opposition as America committed its own domestic atrocities.
Christopher Columbus is my kinfolk, and I had no choice in that matter. But I choose to acknowledge the injustice he wrought. I choose to condemn it and fight for justice, not shrug and resign myself to the status quo.
Fellow Americans should do likewise regarding our country’s painful, sordid history of race relations.
To begin, you just need to wake up.
Chris Columbus XXVIII