Whenever the times change, there will always be clashes between those looking to the progressive future and those who hold onto the values of the past. Such has been the case since early August when mass protests and violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia over the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Since the violent weekend, people have taken to destroying monuments of historical figures who in some way were involved with the oppression of minority groups. One of the most recent incidents involved the beheading of a statue of the famous explorer Christopher Columbus.
There have been efforts made in recent years to boycott the famous explorer and disavow his place in history. Cities like Alaska, Vermont, Seattle and San Francisco have replaced the Columbus Day holiday with Indigenous Peoples Day. At the very end of August, the city of Los Angeles ultimately voted to replace Columbus Day in favor of a holiday that celebrates native individuals.
Many people believe that Christopher Columbus is a relic of an America where racism and cruelty to indigenous people was accepted. These people believe that it is important not to give any acknowledgement to Columbus or anyone who promoted these hateful values. It is right for people not to want to celebrate individuals who treated others with hatred and enslavement, but a certain level of diplomacy is required in these situations.
While I do agree that Columbus Day should be replaced with a holiday celebrating indigenous people, you cannot simply erase Christopher Columbus from the history books and act like he never existed. The primary contribution Columbus made to our world is far too significant to ignore because of the despicable things he was involved in. When talking about Christopher Columbus, he should be looked upon as a deeply flawed figure who ultimately was vital in building the ground work of the United States.
We must also take into consideration that Christopher Columbus came from an era where a different mentality existed in the majority of people. In the 1400s, the majority did not see their enslavement of indigenous people as abhorrent. We know how horrible slavery is through looking at the history of our culture and the tragic consequences it produced.
This is one of those situations where you cannot have your cake and eat it too. America is a great country filled with opportunity and diversity. However, the road to get to our modern-day America was filled with violence and atrocities towards people of POC and people of differing cultural groups. America has a very shameful history that we must teach future generations about.
The Charlottesville protests showed that there are a lot of people in this country who still believe that individuals who fought for hatred should be celebrated. Those people have no leg to stand on with their cause and deserve no sympathy at all. People who are fighting against white supremacists are more justified in their fight, but they must also act responsibly.
Forcibly destroying statues and trying to erase parts of American history is imposing your will onto others. Stooping to the level of the white supremacists in Charlottesville will do nothing to make people believe in fighting against racial hatred. Organized protests and city-wide votes are the most productive way to ensure that some of the more flawed aspects of our history will not be celebrated, but will still be taught to children for generations to come.