Justice

Columbus Day Proves Our Hypocrisy About Immigration

October 9th 2015

By:
Kyle Jaeger

On Columbus Day, we celebrate the first voyage of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus to the New World. He landed in the Americas on October 12, 1492 and mistakenly reported back to the Spanish Crown that he had made it to India and called the indigenous people "Indians." And though some continue to refer to Native Americans as Indians, the mistake is only one part of a larger and more troubling narrative about immigration and Columbus Day.

RELATED: Why We Should Abolish Columbus Day Now

What happened after Columbus discovered the New World is not the story taught to children in the U.S. Columbus Day is about celebrating the achievement of the Italian traveler and all the imperialist glory that followed—not about the genocide and enslavement of the native inhabitants carried out by Europeans immigrants.

These memes brilliantly put Columbus Day into perspective.

Columbus Day meme

Columbus

Many Americans tend to think of Columbus as something of a national icon—despite the fact that he was an Italian immigrant employed by Spain to find riches in India, inadvertently landing in the Americas. Our willingness to support the explorer's exploits is coupled with a willful ignorance to the fact that his voyage brought devastation to the native population.

Not only were tens of thousands of indigenous people wiped out by diseases they contracted from the European settlers, but under Columbus' own order, whole tribes were brutally killed in the name of imperialism. For those and other reasons, several cities across the U.S. have abolished Columbus Day, choosing not to celebrate the troubling history of the foundation of America.

RELATED: The 2 Biggest Lies About Immigrants In the U.S.

But one of the most relevant points about Columbus Day today has to do with immigration. As politicians such as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump continue to insist that illegal immigrants are bringing this country down, draining our resources and taking our jobs, it's important to remember that we are a nation quite literally founded on immigrants.

The difference is, the original immigrants to America really did engage in horrible, imperialist activities. They really did rape, murder, and spread disease. And while there's nothing wrong with a little patriotism, Columbus Day should serve as a reminder that when we talk about immigration, we should keep the historical context of our own settlement in mind.