In August of 2009 I deployed to Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan. The base was insanely crowded but filled with what seemed like a little bit of everyone. There were Canadians, Jordanians, British, Polish, Germans, “Americans”, and several other countries represented. It was literally a NATO base and because of that, there was a lot of flavor and varying traditions observed. The office I worked in was representative of this diversity as well. There were 6 of us supporting construction contracts in this little trailer outside of the main Contracting/Finance building. We had a biracial guy, a Russian, a White guy, a Filipina, a young lady that was of Malay/Filipina and Chinese descent I believe…and me. We called ourselves the Wolf Pack. Every evening we ate dinner as a team, most times we’d do lunch together as well, but breakfast we were lone wolves for sure. I was the earliest in the office, usually around 4 am, but I wouldn’t venture out for food until closer to 7am.
One morning relatively early in our time there, I walked to the British compound and discovered this little café. They made fresh squeezed orange juice, had these little chicken tika pies and a different vibe in general. Initially I’d only go for the food, eventually, on my half days, I’d just go over there and hang out, watch their tv, join in their hip hop conversations here and there and I even watched some soccer matches. I shared my discovery with the Wolf Pack…I think 2 people went and the others felt it was too far of a walk to be bothered with. I made the walk almost every day after I discovered this place. At some point they restricted use of their recreational area to British soldiers only, which was probably my fault since I was setting up shop in their spot all uninvited and stuff.
Roughly 517 years before my discovery of the British compound, give or take a couple months, Christopher Columbus and a bunch of his buddies set sail in search of a new route to India. This guy was out to sea for 2 months before he reached the Bahamas, and since he saw brown people upon his arrival, he called them Indians. At some point his ignorance dawned on him and instead of correcting himself and calling these people by what they called themselves at the time, he continued calling them Indians, a willfully ignorant description that is now embraced today. After him, everyone wanted to get in on this “discovery” of the “new” world…where Brown people had been living already for about a hundred thousand years. Go figure.
Columbus Day is a celebration of White supremacy. I’d go so far as to say it is to White supremacy ideology what Christmas is to Christianity…at least in my estimation. This man set sail in hopes to find India, yet he lands 8,007 miles away from his destination on an island already inhabited by people, with customs, traditions, homes and stuff already established. Yet, we’re taught that he discovered the place now called the Americas. Yes, he discovered it like I discovered the British café, but personal revelation is not the same as authorship, ownership or origin. I get it though, when using words it’s difficult to describe the act of happening upon something brand new that has never been seen or interacted with by anyone before…so we use the word “discover”. It’s problematic when we use that same word when someone is already there, for example:
At least try to hide the racism
I’m not going to beat the dead horse of Columbus getting lost though, not right now at least, I’m beating the still alive horse of why we continue to celebrate this clown. There is more than enough scholarly information to digest along with observation and common sense to know that Columbus, ever ignorant, was a terrible human being. He got wrong every destination he landed upon, believing each to be places in Asia for quite some time. The only thing he was good at was stealing, kidnapping, and getting lost, but for some reason, despite knowing this, he is honored. As a direct result of Columbus’s orders, women and little girls were kidnapped and raped. Thousands of people were forced into servitude for his financial gain AKA slavery, He ushered in chattel slavery as a practice in the Americas as well. The conditions he established were so terrible allegedly tens of thousands of people committed suicide before they would be subjected to working for him. For comparison, OJ Simpson allegedly killed 1 woman and 1 guy, and the same people that revere Columbus, revile OJ.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, this idea of being first is only applicable to White people. No one talks about discovering England or any place in Europe. The writers of their side of history assume origins by the descendants of modern day Europeans. Yes, by the time Columbus set sail, people had been living in Europe for thousands of years. People had been living in the Americas for tens of thousands of years by this time as well. To claim discovery in this case, a lack of respect for the inhabitants is needed. The Spaniards, Brits and French that followed assumed this same lack of respect in their conquest. The people were seen as sub-human because only White people were considered human by these European nations. They assumed themselves to be the pinnacle and everyone that differed to be savages, brutes, primal and so on. The nerve. These people made their way to this place tens of thousands of years before they even knew it existed…yet those people are considered less than. Granted, this was in the 1400’s when people were less informed about a lot of things, but we’re still celebrating this way of thinking in the 2020’s.
It’s over there, I think
The closest Columbus got to modern day U.S. was when he landed in Cuba, which he believed was Japan. Wrong again of course, but only 6,867 miles off target this time. I will admit, it takes bravery to set off on a wooden ship across the Atlantic Ocean for days, weeks or even months at a time. The Vikings did it roughly 500 hundred years before Columbus when they discovered Newfoundland…fitting name right. That said, the premise of “why” we’re celebrating this man is still baffling. At best, his crew was 3rd behind the original inhabitants and Vikings. There’s nearly no mention of them though, just the trumped-up tales of Columbus sailing the ocean blue when he was actually just lost as hell. This means Christopher Columbus is the Carlos Mencia of the world explorers.
I recall an episode of the Sopranos in which they were upset with some Native Americans about protesting Columbus Day. Never thought much of it, but I found out that it really is a big deal to some Italian Americans. Many Italian-Americans claim him because he’s Italian, though he was working for Spain. There was nothing noble about his actions objectively speaking, however, from a Eurocentric perspective, he’s a hero. When I was in Spain, this extremely silly lady told me “If it were not for Columbus you would not have a home”. Understanding that every country shows maps with them in the center, I understood her ignorance and that of her fellow country-men and women. What I don’t understand is why the United States co-signs this nonsense. Especially since he never set foot on the United States. Let’s be honest here, even if he would have gotten off his ship in Florida, he likely would’ve assumed it to be Ethiopia or something, the man was aware of these places like I’m aware of Saturn’s moons. I know of them, but I can’t identify them by sight.
Maybe I’m over thinking it, or perhaps under thinking it. Maybe there is another explanation besides White supremacy. Maybe I’m just flat out wrong all around when it comes to my views on Columbus and the supporters of his holiday…though I know that isn’t true. Let’s assume the very best of good ol’ Chris. Let’s throw out the raping, enslaving, torturing, stealing and everything else that would have him brought up on RICO charges today. I ask, is the accomplishment of getting severely lost and spreading disease something to celebrate someone for?
The greater question in all of this is, why is revelation to Europeans, despite pre-existing people thriving in a location considered discovery or origin? The Americas were supposedly discovered twice by Europeans, once by Leif Erikson, then 500 years later by Christopher Columbus, both discovery points already had people living there. Australia was “discovered” in 1606 by this Dutch guy, and there were already people living and thriving there. Thirty-six years after they “discovered” Australia, they discovered New Zealand, again, with people living and thriving already. They never came in peace, never really showed sincere respect or appreciation. They just waited for opportunities to exploit and steal resources. We should not be celebrating any of these people, at all. However, we live in a strange world where homicidal maniacs are heroes. So, if we’re celebrating horrible assholes, we might as well recognize October 3rd as OJ day in honor of the shocking verdict that let a Black man in America’s traditionally racist legal system, legally get away with murder. That’s thousands upon thousands of deaths less than Christopher Columbus is responsible for, but it is the first time we saw it. If the idea of celebrating OJ day is ridiculous, Columbus Day is worse.