When I grew up in South Korea, I had to memorize a lot of data in history classes: names, dates, figures, place names, historical events, etc. Memorization of data was the main goal of the class, and I hated it.
I took one year of U.S. History class in my high school in NYC after I immigrated. It was not much different from the history classes in Korea. I memorized terms like Louisiana Purchase and Manifest Destiny to pass the NYS regents exam. There was no story spoken by Native Americans. If there were, it would have started my waking up process 20 years earlier, but that didn’t happen. For example, using the book that has recently taken the first place as fiction on my list: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (My #1 non-fiction is The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert) would have been extremely helpful. When I read this historical fiction last month, I was touched, moved, and torn apart. The history flew through my heart, not through my head. I truly believe learning history through personal stories is more effective than memorizing data.
Columbus Day has been an ordinary holiday to me, the day I don’t go to school or work. It is a holiday that I did not celebrate in Korea, but now I’m in the U.S. so why not join the party? While I’ve been numbly brainwashed by the White heteronormative racist agenda, other woke and caring people have been working hard to reverse the tremendous damage Christopher Columbus had inflicted 500 years ago. In observance of “Columbus Day 2019”, I read a few articles on the movement of renaming this holiday and picked a few years that line up its turns in history. Data again! What can you do? I’m from Korea.
- 1492: Christopher Columbus lands on the Western Hemisphere.
- 1792: the first documented observance of Columbus Day takes place in NYC.
- 1934: President Franklin D. Roosevelt declares the first national observance of Columbus Day.
- 1990: South Dakota, as the first state, renames Columbus Day as Native Americans’ Day.
- 2019: Washington D.C. passes a resolution to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. (A full list of other states, districts, and cities that changed the name)
What this data tells me is that we are taking a fucking long time to mend our wrongdoings. If you claim that you did not invade this land yourself. Well, you are still responsible for mending it because your ancestors left it to you like your children will have to deal with climate change that you are leaving to them.
I understand why it is taking so long: because of how our society is structured. The people in power benefit from the structure and will do their best not to change it. Covering up the truth, creating their own narratives, and propagandizing them to the general public are the strategies they use.
But revels rise bearing and fighting for truth. And now they are proclaiming loud and proud: Fuck Columbus! It’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day! This new name “recognizes that Native people are the first inhabitants of the Americas.” And “there is power in a name and in who we choose to honor,” Gov. Janet Mills of Maine said as she signed a bill last April to establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day in her state.
We need to continue learning about what Christopher Columbus did. In fact, we should never forget what he did and ensure that our future generations remember it, too. Meanwhile, we do not need a holiday named after him to celebrate or commemorate. Including the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we need to make a lot more effort on healing the wounds of Native Americans from our history and fighting against the structural racism that continues to marginalize and erase them.