Most people in the U.S. think of today as Columbus Day. But I refuse to celebrate this asshole. A shitty explorer (who refused to admit that he wasn’t even in Asia), Columbus kidnapped, colonized, maimed and committed genocide to the Indigenous peoples here. Oh yeah, that really sounds like someone we should honor with their own holiday. Yet history books and monuments perpetually pay homage to this barbaric douchebag.
Eesha Pandit at Crunk Feminist Collective (if you’re not reading this site, you seriously need to) declares:
“I am taking the day to mark and recognize the legacy of violence that he fomented. America is not a land founded on freedom and exploration – it is founded on the genocide of Native and First Nations people.”
She goes on to write about a conference she attended where Two Spirit Indigenous hip-hop feminist and reproductive justice activist Jessica Yee, Founder and Executive Director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, asked the attendees if they knew whose land they “stood and sat upon:”
“Do you know? Wherever you sit right now, do you know who lived, worked, loved and died there before your history books begin the story?”
It’s a question many of us don’t often think about…but we should.
Yee, who I heard eloquently speak at this year’s CLPP Reproductive Justice Conference (she’s an amazing badass), asks when we can stop celebrating Columbus Day. Some communities, like Columbus, Ohio, have done just that. Berkeley and several other cities in California no longer celebrate Columbus Day but rather Indigenous Peoples Day. In South Dakota, they honor Native American Day and Hawaii commemorates the Polynesian discovers through Discover’s Day.
Now you might be thinking Columbus Day is just a day off, it’s not a big holiday like Christmas so what’s the big deal? But how we celebrate as a nation and a community and who we choose to commemorate speaks volumes about what we value collectively.
Systemic racism is still entrenched in our society and institutions, schisms still occur amongst some white feminists and feminists of color (as some white feminists just don’t understand racism), and people of color (particularly Indigenous peoples) are often invisible in mainstream media. It’s imperative that those of us who benefit from white privilege (and as a white woman I definitely do), speak out against racism and support communities of color. As feminists, we need to recognize our own privilege and vigilantly advocate for the rights of all people.
It’s time we stopped celebrating genocidal white male assholes and abolished Columbus Day. Instead, let’s honor all of the diverse Indigenous communities.
We should be celebrating freedom and equality, not racism and bloodshed.