For years, so very many of us were taught that Christopher Columbus “discovered America” and we believed it. We believed that white supremacist fairytale with every fiber of our young beings and diligently built papier-mâché replicas of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, never knowing—for how could we?—that Columbus’s name invoked the ravages of genocide against Indigenous people, the shackles of slavery and the onslaught of disease.
Made for some cute history lessons, though, as long as you don’t teach about all the raping and maiming and the slaughter of millions of Native people by Columbus and his men during his voyages to the West Indies.
(Speaking of cute revisionist history, just wait until you get me going on the PILGRIMS.)
Officials in Sandusky, Ohio, decided to rid their city of a relic of revisionist history. They decided the city will no longer observe Columbus Day as a holiday.
Instead, the city will switch it for Election Day, making it a paid holiday. The city commissioners decided the change was not only appropriate but would remove obstacles to voting.
The new rule takes effect this year.
“What better way to celebrate the value of our employees and citizens than by removing barriers for them to participate in the greatest of American innovations, our democracy,” the Sandusky government wrote on Facebook.
According to Eric Wobster, Sandusky city manager and a former executive director of Ohio City Inc., the sordid history of Columbus Day was not far from city commissioners’ minds.
“We are swapping them to prioritize Voting Day as a day off so that our employees can vote,” he told The Sandusky Register.
“It’s also because Columbus Day has become controversial, and many cities have eliminated it as a holiday.”
The move has not come without pushback.
Organizations representing the Italian-American community fought to preserve Columbus Day as a federal holiday, arguing that the day is a symbolic celebration of their heritage in the face of persecution.
“As an organization devoted to the promotion and preservation of Italian-American heritage, we support unequivocally keeping Columbus Day as a federal holiday,” the National Italian American Foundation said in a statement.
“When Columbus Day was founded in 1937, the federal holiday provided a sense of dignity and self-worth in light of the hostility and discrimination many Italian immigrants, Italian-Americans, and Catholics (more broadly) faced.”
But the move by the Sandusky city commission is a popular one.
Anything that takes a proactive stance against issues like gerrymandering and voter suppression is just fine by many.
BREAKING: Sandusky, Ohio will stop observing Columbus Day — switching the holiday to Election Day instead.
This needs to happen nationally. https://t.co/asabJwMB2D
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) February 7, 2019
Officials in Sandusky, Ohio have decided their city will no longer observe Columbus Day as a holiday and will swap it with Election Day instead.
This will give workers in municipal offices throughout the city the day off on Election Day.
This needs to happen everywhere.
— Ricky Davila (@TheRickyDavila) February 7, 2019
— Tee.Dee (@tc1613) February 7, 2019
lets get rid of Columbus Day and make Election Day a national holiday.
— Little Pez Trash Mouth (@Pez5683) February 8, 2019
Let me understand something we recognize Columbus Day as a federal holiday and celebrate a rapist and murderer who enslaved thousands and never stepped foot on the continental United States but we don’t recognize Election Day as a holiday to celebrate our democracy?
— davey gravy (@jerseyh0mo) February 7, 2019
The news comes just as lawmakers in Kansas are considering abolishing Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous People’s Day. The Topeka-Capital Journal reported that legislators heard testimony from several Native Americans this week. The newspaper observed that no one testified against the legislation.
Kansas State Rep. Ponka-We Victors (D) told the newspaper that the measure “will help seek truth and dispel the myth that Columbus discovered America.”
“Changing this day will celebrate the indigenous peoples’ survival, resilience and deep contributions to all peoples that now live on this land.”
Former President Barack Obama noted the suffering of Indigenous people during his Columbus Day proclamation in 2016.
“As we mark this rich holiday, we must also acknowledge the pain and suffering reflected in the stories of Native Americans who had long resided on this land prior to the arrival of European newcomers,” he said at the time.
“The past we share is marked by too many broken promises, as well as violence, deprivation, and disease. It is a history that we must recognize as we seek to build a brighter future.”
A positive step in our books!