Monday, October 10, 2011
Boycotting Columbus Day: A Native American Perspective
Hi Meltingpot Readers,
You know my life is all about learning about the other. I truly enjoy reading, writing and researching about other cultures and ethnicities and seeing how we are similar and at the same time honoring the differences. It's not always easy to honor those difference but we have to try. That's why I am always interested in meeting people who come from ethnic and/or cultural groups different from my own. And I always ask a lot of questions.
Last year, I taught a class at Temple called Race and Racism in the News. During the course of the class, I invited many guest speakers from different ethnic groups around Philadelphia to come speak. One of my speakers was a Native American man, who was also an activist and educator. (He also happens to be my accountant but that's another story.)
He talked about reservation life, Native American traditions being co-opted as cool and a host of other issues facing modern day Native Americans. But one thing he said stuck in my mind and always will. Not surprisingly, he said he not only ignores Columbus Day, he boycotts it. Why? In his mind, and many others in the Native American community, Christopher Columbus is likened to Hitler. Yes, he said Hitler. They see him as a man responsible for the utter destruction and decimation of Native people in the Americas. And not for nothing, they also find it highly disturbing that streets are named after Columbus in almost every major city. "Can you imagine a Hitler street?" he asked my class. Ouch.
So, on this Columbus Day, I'm thinking about the Native American community and how they must be feeling on a day honoring a man they consider pure evil. I'm not heading out to join any protests, but I'm definitely sympathetic. This is how we learn, people. This is how we learn.
What do you do on Columbus Day? Do you celebrate, sympathize, protest, or just enjoy a day off work?