Crisis Over Columbus Day


Libby LeStage, Opinions Editor

As Columbus Day was just celebrated on Monday and the rise in doubt over whether Christopher Columbus deserves to have a holiday dedicated to him, it is important to address the alternative options to the holiday that exist. When I was younger, Columbus Day was always portrayed as a day of celebration because, first of all, it was a day off from school, which was always a reason to be happy. Secondly, the day commemorated a person who I was taught was a hero and the man who discovered America. Thirdly, my birthday falls on or close to Columbus Day every year, making the holiday even more exciting for me. However, as I got older and began discussing Columbus in classes, I started learning more about what really went on when Columbus came to the Americas. The truth of what happened astounded me. Reading about what he did made me question what I’d always been told about Columbus Day, and the conversations that I listened to and participated in during class often focused on less controversial alternatives to the holiday. With the new realization of what Columbus Day really memorializes, I think that these alternatives need to be seriously discussed and put into place.

At the beginning of the school year, Columbus Day was approaching quickly, prompting several of my classes to discuss why we hold Columbus in such high regard and what we can do to change that. One topic that stuck with me was the September vandalism of a Columbus statue in Central Park and what the city of New York is considering doing to address it. Many people are becoming aware of why the statue is a representation of the crimes committed by Columbus rather than a symbol of America’s “discoverer”, an important distinction that, unsurprisingly, has brought hate and controversy. While reading an article about the crisis that New York City is facing regarding both Columbus’s statue and other controversial ones, I learned that one of the options that the city is considering is to outfit the statues with plaques that explain the history of the figures on the monuments. To me, this seems like a good option, at least for the near future. We know that taking statues down has recently caused hate and violence to break out, which is something that should be avoided as much as possible. By outfitting statues that memorialize controversial figures with informational plaques, the negativity is addressed in a non-violent manner, and the figure still has a place in society. Additionally, putting the plaques in place is a smart strategy because it allows people to actually learn about the memorialized figures, while simply removing the statues just erases everything.

To address the actual holiday in remembrance of Columbus: there are several ideas that have been proposed to change the significance of the day while maintaining it as a holiday. The most popular of the proposals (it has already replaced Columbus Day in some cities/states) is Indigenous People’s Day, a day honoring the native people of America. I believe that this is a fantastic alternative to Columbus Day, both because it takes away from the celebration of a criminal and because it gives credit to the people who were really here first. While several cities and states have already adopted Indigenous People’s Day as a Columbus Day replacement, much of the country has yet to change over to the new holiday. By celebrating Indigenous People’s Day, the country would remember the people who lived in America long before Columbus came along and destroyed these people and their culture, while claiming everything in sight.