Christopher Columbus is not my hero
In 1492 Colombus sailed the ocean blue…
How many other school kids have used this little rhyme to correctly answer a test question about the man we credit for initiating the settlement of Europeans in the Americas? I know this rhyme and I didn’t even grow up in the United States (I was raised in HK and Taiwan, but that’s another story which you can read more about here.)
Monday, October 9, 2017 is Columbus Day, celebrated every year on the 2nd Monday in October. While 46 states still honor and commemorate the “great explorer” on this day, others are in resistance (Alaska, Hawai’i, Oregon, and South Dakota appropriately choose this day to honor indigenous peoples). One must stop to consider why we are celebrating the initiation of an era of immeasurable suffering and death…
In recent decades, Native Americans and other groups have protested the celebration of an event that resulted in the colonization of the Americas, the beginnings of the transatlantic slave trade and the deaths of millions from murder and disease. – History.com
This day of commemoration is not only hurtful to native and indigenous communities. I believe one of the biggest reasons most majority Americans still are blindly racist today is because we have the wrong heroes.
By majority American I mean white American, people of European descent like me. We are the majority in numbers and hold the power to craft national ideology. One of the ways we have done this is in choosing heroes whose lives are marked by coercive domination and suppression of other people groups. We add insult to injury by perpetuating false narratives—e.g. making Columbus look like an international hero.
Friends, we need new white heroes.
A glance at racially-charged events in our Nation in the last 2 months should give us pause. Just seven weeks ago droves of white people marched across the University of Virginia at night with flaming tiki torches to defend one of their white heroes: Robert E. Lee. Violence broke out over the attempt of the city to remove a statue of this champion of slavery in the American South. We are more than 150 years removed from the end of the American Civil War, yet the war still rages in the hearts and minds of US citizens. (Read my blog about Charlottesville here.)
Lee’s predecessor in building the institution of white dominance lived more than 500 years ago in Italy—yes, I’m talking about Columbus. He was commissioned by the monarchs of Spain to acquire lands in the western hemisphere on behalf of the Spanish Crown. His passion to explore and Ferdinand & Isabella’s passion to acquire land was justified by church-sanctioned permission to dominate, conquer, and kill.
The destructive bonfire carried across the Atlantic by Columbus and his men spread up and down the American continents, north and south, raping, pillaging, stealing, killing, and conquering lands all for the noble cause of expanding Christendom. (Click here to watch a 7 min video about the Doctrine of Discovery, documents by the Catholic Church giving permission for the rulers of the “Christian world” to take the lands of the “merciless Indian Savages”.)
Do I need to say more to explain why Columbus is not my hero?
We need new white heroes. Stay tuned for my blog later this week about my white heroes.
But for now, I’m off to protest Colombus and the Papal Bulls.
Are you shocked by what you’ve read? Grieved? Take some time to appropriately respond.
Take time to lament our broken history. Daniel 9 provides a helpful blueprint of what it looks like to cry out to God and mourn the sins of our people.
Click on one of the links in this blog post to learn more. Educate yourself about the first nations peoples of your community. Who are the original hosts and caretakers of the land?
What it could look like to care for the land and community where you live in a way that honors the first nations?