The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Columbus Day: The Holiday We Don’t Want

“One must think about the message being sent to the Native American, Indigenous communities”

“Hey @stjohnsu Columbus Day is not something we should be celebrating. Official request to recognize Indigenous People’s Day instead,” the student organization Social Justice Exchange posted on Instagram.

The appeal to the University to recognize Indigenous People’s Day gets right to the point.

Yet it doesn’t seem to give any reasoning behind the demand besides, “Columbus Day is not something we should be celebrating,” assuming that their followers and our own University already know the reason why.

It’s a reason that should be obvious to any person with an average understanding of history and some sort of moral compass.

The call for the renaming of Columbus Day and the reasoning behind the plea is a well-known controversy.

Supporters of the movement argue that celebrating Columbus’ arrival to the “New World” is celebrating the beginning of colonization and the forced migration of Indigenous people.

It should be easy to see why celebrating this is a bad idea.

Yet many see this protest as merely a manifestation of liberal “sensitivity” and “politically correct” culture.

The argument has been made that Columbus Day does not celebrate the killing, raping, enslavement and colonization that Columbus’ arrival was responsible for, rather it celebrates the discovery of our home.

Although it’s true that no one is parading around on Columbus Day rejoicing the acts of violence and oppression that ensued after Columbus’ “discovery,” it does not change the fact that someone responsible for and associated with all of those atrocities has a day named in his honor.

In addition, one must think about the message being sent to the Native American and Indigenous communities.

It’s as if they are saying, “Columbus is responsible for all the injustices that we have endured,” and the response from some Americans is a resounding, “That’s all right with us, what’s more important is that we’re here thanks to him.”

This dichotomy between a history of oppression and tradition tends to be an avid debate in American society.

This should come as no surprise as American history, from the beginning, excluded people of color and women.

With centuries of racism and oppression, how can celebrating American history not be synonymous with celebrating slavery, discrimination, hate crimes and the forced migration of Native Americans?

This shapes the basis of one of the major arguments against the renaming of Columbus Day. If we stop celebrating Columbus Day, what about President’s Day?

Approximately 12 U.S. Presidents owned slaves, including George Washington whose list of monuments and places named in his honor is extensive and includes the country’s capital.

People against the renaming of Columbus Day contend that should we acknowledge Indigenous People’s Day on a federal level, it will open up a can of worms in which many American traditions and memorials will be at risk of being removed or changed.

Although I can see how this may be an unsettling thought to some Americans, the bottom line is that if they are okay with keeping monuments of figures who represented and took part in the oppression of their fellow Americans, that is indeed the most unsettling thing about this country.

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