Columbus controversy shows why winners can’t write history

Columbus controversy shows why winners can’t write history

I’ve always been tired of hearing about celebrities avoiding lawful punishment because of their Hollywood status. That’s why I was glad to hear ABC News report on a certain celebrity who, after years of avoiding the law, has finally been convicted of his crimes. Yes, Christopher Columbus, it’s about time. The jury, comprised of fourth grade students at a Pennsylvania school, found the defendant guilty of terrible crimes and sentenced him to life in prison (No word as of yet about any chance for parole). But these 10-year-olds aren’t the only ones to lay judgment on the Italian explorer. All around the country, people are casting aside Columbus and his federal holiday. For example, Brown University, in a surprise liberal move, has removed the holiday from their calendar, replacing it will a ‘fall break.’

Luckily there still exist holiday patriots, such as David Cicilline, the mayor of Providence, who are fighting back against this persecution. The mayor views the elimination of this holiday to be offensive, particularly to the Italian-Americans in our nation. Others share the same feelings and, as a young, red-blooded, Italian-American, there was a moment I considered changing my view and jumping on the Mayor’s bandwagon to defend our brother Chris.

Then I actually took a second to think.

Are these people serious? People should be offended by Columbus NOT getting a holiday? It seems like this is one argument the mayor can’t and shouldn’t make. When Christopher Columbus came to America, he proceeded to kill and place into slavery at least hundreds, if not thousands, of indigenous people. I think we can understand the hostility towards placing his name on a nationally acknowledged holiday.

Yet, we sweep these facts under the carpet, choosing to celebrate the idea that he was a great explorer whose curiosity led him to “discover America.” But he didn’t. He wasn’t the first person here. He wasn’t even the first European. He was a businessman looking for the same thing as any other businessman: gold, money, the ‘Benjamins’. The only difference between him and a traveling salesman is that he committed far more terrible crimes than bothering us during dinnertime.

Now, it can be argued that he still had a significant role in history, but we can no longer focus on this ideal version. I can understand why there is a movement to remove Columbus’ name. The holiday stands as a yearly insult to the many Americans who are linked to the natives of the time. This is not political correctness, but simply an attempt to do what is correct.

Fortunately, the way we teach children about Columbus has been changing. The students mentioned earlier are a prime example of this. We are beginning to see more of the story told and that is the path on which we need to continue. But it shouldn’t end with Columbus. With regards to Lincoln, Jefferson and even Obama, we can’t ignore the areas of history which are difficult to tell. In our growing and diverse nation, there is no room for history written by the “winner.” The good news is that these 10-year-olds know that. The bad news is that it will be years before they become the mayors of Providence.

Phil Cardarella is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a liberal columnist for The Eagle. You can reach him at

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