I attended a Socialist Alternative branch meeting in Oakland today. At the end there is the technical business, including future topics and who is to present on them.
One was a historical dilemma that is essential to the United States: how can the American Revolution be seen as a struggle for freedom, if it was forwarded by slaveholders, who by the end had even more authority over the people they owned? Even a middle school history class tackles with that. Of course, when you bring in ideas of capital, imperialism, and white supremacy, there are more nuances to explore and consider.
Since I’m headed on a journey through western Canada tomorrow, I can’t write out in full the thought I had.
Wasn’t the American Revolution a fight both for and against imperialism? The colonists fought against British colonialism. Their victory allowed for a more complete imperialism of western Africa; both current slaves, and those to be taken from their homeland, were subject to imperial control. And because there was a 32 year gap between British abolition of slavery and US abolition, the colonies gaining independence brought decades more oppression.
October 12th is recognized as Columbus Day in the United States, one of ten federal holidays. Its recognition is one of the great symbolic crimes against indigenous people in the Americas. Christopher Columbus began a horrendous genocide against the Arawak people (I recommend the first chapter of A People’s History of the United States by Zinn for an overview), and by bringing natives back to Europe to be slaves, he inaugurated an Atlantic slave trade that came to affect millions of Africans. Because he was Genoese, he has been triumphed by the Italian-American community. This is why it is currently a holiday, and remains so.
However, celebrating Columbus is to celebrate a great criminal. Would the Italian community like to celebrate Caligula, or Mussolini? The actions of all three are similar. Murder on a mass scale, callous disregard for human life, abuse of power and authority.
This is why a movement exists to reflect on Columbus and ask the key question- do we wish to celebrate him alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln? A powerful video entitled “Reconsider Columbus Day” puts it simply.
Those that love freedom, value rights and democracy, and consider themselves against prejudice have to voice some kind of opposition. It can just be a Facebook status, or a Twitter hashtag. When the holiday comes and it fills the news, it’s time to get off the sidelines.
Columbus Day celebrates tragedy and triumphs genocide.