In 1492 one of the most notorious sociopaths in history arrived in what is now the United States of America. The end of the story we all know. Brought over smallpox, raped, enslaved and slaughtered more than a significant portion of an indigenous civilization. Counting the smallpox deaths, Columbus could have caused the largest genocide in human history.
Imagine, you are lost at sea, but by some divine will you run into land, inhabited by a bunch of beautiful brown people with a culture completely foreign to your own. They offer to share their food with you and teach you about their way of life. Your response might be something like “holy shit, this is great, so much to learn here, such good food, great people.” You might have even blogged about it. But then you wouldn’t have a federal holiday.
If however, your first instinct was to send a letter detailing how easy it would be to exploit those who just saved you, you’d be Chris Columbus.
This concept though, is not an unfamiliar one. There is an ocean full of cognitive dissonance when it comes to morally unjustifiable historical events and people. When we compare them to our current “greatness” and moral superiority, shit just doesn’t add up.
Take school shootings for example.
So every other day when we have one of those school shootings, it’s become super popular, although not as popular as the shootings themselves, for authorities and reporters alike to avoid popularizing the shooter. I get it, don’t make the guy a hero. We are the good guys here, let’s act like it right? Don’t let this bad guy be the priority in a tragedy.
This logic is shitty though, because Columbus Day. I mean not only that, but if you have any cash on you and want to be reminded of which presidents owned slaves, pull out a $1 bill. Hell, there is physical evidence that Thomas Jefferson raped Sally Hemings and someone still said fuck it, put him on the $2 bill.
When I consider that, even just the money thing, I wasn’t really surprised when the Redskins refused to change their name. They literally have a logo that appropriates, arguably the most marginalized group of people in North America. Still they could not be bothered to provide even the mildest bit of respect to a request from the Native American community that could be of no real consequence to them? Punching down at its finest.
With that, I understand that multiculturalism is this new popular thing going around, especially in major U.S. cities above the Mason Dixon line and of course, in Europe. It’s a great idea.
Unfortunately, it seems to come with a caveat. One that maintains the “forget about it, it’s all in the past,” oversimplified bullshit one might encounter when having any conversation relating to race and/or gender. At Starbucks maybe? In my experience, most definitely on college campuses. How good it feels to have someone who’s most trying life moment has been this very conversation, attempt to tell you all about what hard work would do for disenfranchised communities. “Just pick up those pants and boot straps, drop the drugs and guns and you guys will start making some progress!”
Could it be worth it? Just taking the high ground, letting it all just roll right off your back again, and again? Taking sole responsibility for the detrimental effects of European colonization with a coke and a smile?