April 8, 2009

Columbus Banned at Brown

Marc Comtois

They editorialized, they polled and now they've been seconded by the faculty: Brown University will no longer celebrate Columbus Day. Why? From an earlier editorial at the Brown Daily Herald:

Anyone who has studied history, especially at a mostly liberal institution like Brown, knows that Christopher Columbus did not "discover" the Americas. Not only are many of his accomplishments falsified or overstated - Columbus was not the first Westerner to explore the Americas, and he never set foot in the United States - but the claim that Columbus or other explorers "discovered" America ignores the civilizations built and sustained by Native Americans for hundreds of years.

To celebrate Columbus Day is to celebrate a colonizer's holiday. It is the celebration of European powers claiming land on this and other continents, and a celebration of violence toward and oppression of indigenous people and culture. White people, ranging from European colonizers to the government of the United States, have committed innumerable brutal offenses against Native Americans over the past 500 years. Honoring Columbus with a holiday glosses over a racist, blood-stained facet of our history and glamorizes the past as victorious manifest destiny.

Yes, Europeans are indeed unique in this:
For the Aztecs, warfare had a much different goal than for most of their counterparts. The goal of the battles was not to destroy the enemy and ransack the village but to capture the community and integrate them into the Aztec society, thus providing a much more productive and expanding kingdom. The temples of these cities were burned and the worship of Huitzilopochtli was installed. Warfare was also used to capture victims for ceremonial use. Prisoners of war were sacrificed on huge alters in front of large crowds. The heart of the victim was cut out, symbolically offered to the gods, and the lifeless bodies of the victims were rolled down the long stairs, staining the steps with blood.
In North America, Europeans were one among equals in the Beaver Wars. In what we now call southern New England, the wars between the Narragansetts, Wampanoags, Pequots and Mohegans were going on before the arrival of white Europeans. Of course Europeans didn't cover themselves in glory with the way they treated the indigenous people of the New World. Man has made war upon man for time immemorial. As "anyone who has studied history" should know, the difference is only a matter of degree. This exercise in PC-feelgoodism is based on a blinkered and anachronistic view of history.

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Fruitcakes in training for the statehouse. Just like the nuts who think we need to change the state's name, these folks think we need to eliminate a holiday. Their historical facts are a mess like the legislators who want to change the name of our state are.

Posted by: kathy at April 8, 2009 5:39 PM

I'm just a little ashamed to be an Brown alumnus today.

I mean come on the Brown family made a fortune off the slave trade. What's next? Renaming the university? Ivory tower boobs...

*shakes head*

Posted by: donroach at April 8, 2009 8:10 PM


On a quick first reading, I missed a question mark and read your comment as: "What's next? Renaming the university Ivory tower boobs?"

I don't know about the "boobs" part, but ITU would be fitting.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 8, 2009 9:29 PM

Well, I am glad to see that all the big problems we face have been fixed, because only a stupid f'n retarded loser would waste an ounce of thought on this issue otherwise.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at April 8, 2009 10:00 PM

Mike Capelli,
Are you calling Marc "a stupid f'n retarded loser". After all he "obviously wasted an ounce of thought on this issue."

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 8, 2009 10:54 PM

The Soprano crew is gonna be pissed. If you ever saw the Columbus Day episode, you know how well any criticism of Christopha goes over.
How do Ivy Leaguers deal with chains and tire irons?

Posted by: rhody at April 9, 2009 12:32 AM

Is Columbus Day this weekend?

Posted by: Phil at April 9, 2009 5:21 AM

Based on an "anachronistic view"?? How can that be? Supporters of this measure are hip, cool.

Thoroughly modern and enlightened ...

Posted by: Monique at April 9, 2009 8:02 AM

"How do Ivy Leaguers deal with chains and tire irons?"

I'd be surprised if half of them have ever dealt with changing the oil in their cars or even know what a tire iron is [normally] used for. We're not talking about normal people here.

It's hard for me to be upset about the petty actions of people who don't live in the same world as the rest of us. Just think of all the other holidays that might offend them. July 4th? Too nationalistic! Christmas? It's Christian! Easter? Wanton bunny abuse! Veteran's Day? Militaristic! Mother's Day? Sexist! Frankly, they'd probably find offense in the word "holiday," since it's derived from Holy Day!

PS Personally, I loved that Columbus Day episode.

Posted by: Will at April 9, 2009 9:26 AM

Kathy, there's a dinstinctive difference between elected leaders introducing frivolous legislation based on faulty perceptions in the middle of economic armegeddon, and a private university's faculty reacting to the latest student activism project. Frankly I don't know why this is even newsworthy or surprising.

Posted by: JP at April 9, 2009 9:43 AM

Once again, a liberal doesn't get it!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at April 9, 2009 10:20 AM

1. I'm not a liberal. I am a Leftist, which usually places me to the left of Liberals. Take me out of your tight little world of narrow minds and narrower definitions. Try to open up a bit and expand your world view.

2. What is that I don't get? Isn't it true that Marc spent some time doing what you decry others of doing, i.e. "waste an ounce of thought on this issue..."?

3. What in my post here makes you label me a liberal? I have not commented one way or another on what the Brown students said about the issue.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 9, 2009 12:32 PM

I'm proud to say I'm a conservative, yet I don't see why Christopher Columbus deserves a holiday or what he did worthy of praise?

Even if it is a yahoo thing to worry about in this economy, I haven't seen anyone here justify a holiday for Columbus. How about it Columbus Day was removed and September 11 became a national holiday?

It's kind of funny that Travis Rowley's comment on Newsmakers is coming up true here. If you're around conservatives, the discussion shifts way right and the same is true on the other side. Everyone here has just jumped on the proponents as liberal yahoos with nothing better to do, and the discusson on RIF was about the atrocities done to the indigenous people. Kinda funny.

Posted by: Patrick at April 9, 2009 2:46 PM

Once Brown University agrees to return the land on the East Side of Providence that was provided to it by the Brown family slave traders, I'll take the faculty's condemnation of Columbus Day seriously.

Until Brown is willing to give up the ill-gotten gains of the past, its' faculty is only giving a lesson in hypocrisy.

Posted by: Anthony at April 9, 2009 10:49 PM

Agreeing with Anthony 100% here, and furthermore, if they weren't still taking the day off as "Fall Weekend," but instead actually chose to work or learn something on that day, it might be seen for something it's clearly not: serious.

PS As Travis Rowley of the YRs, who is a Brown alumnus mentioned earlier today, "...during Holy Week no less, RI's very own Brown University is conducting their 1st Annual Sex Week, and has decided to drop their observance of Columbus Day. Be proud - 90% of Brown students and faculty self-identify as Democrats and/or liberals."

Posted by: Will at April 10, 2009 12:51 AM

These leftys are so foolish.. anything to be different . . lets forego our history and celebrate a sex week during easter.. Its those silly brown rich liberals whose grandparents and great grandparents alike enslaved people.. its an unfortunate part of our past, which maybe we should learn from, so why ignore it?

we will have to look back at the evils of this obamanation and learn from it no?

I am so glad to be a right winger.

Posted by: Andy D at April 10, 2009 9:06 AM
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