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Genocide Day

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Another October so it’s another Genocide Day, by which I mean of course the celebration of the genocidal murderer Christopher Columbus running into America like a drunk who stumbles toward his home, finds himself in someone else’s home, and then rapes, kidnaps and murders all the people who live there. Upon landing in Hispanola, Columbus wrote:

“They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things… They willingly traded everything they owned… They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

Already, Europeans saw native peoples strictly in terms of control. By his second voyage, Columbus was already calling indigenous people “evil.” Of course, Columbus wasn’t too different from his officers. Columbus gave Michele de Cuneo a native girl. The latter wrote:

“While I was in the boat I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the said Lord Admiral gave to me, and with whom, having taken her into my cabin, she being naked according to their custom, I conceived desire to take pleasure. I wanted to put my desire into execution but she did not want it and treated me with her finger nails in such a manner that I wished I had never begun. But seeing that (to tell you the end of it all), I took a rope and thrashed her well, for which she raised such unheard of screams that you would not have believed your ears. Finally we came to an agreement in such manner that I can tell you that she seemed to have been brought up in a school of harlots.”

Rape and beatings–now that sums up European attitudes toward Native Americans. We see this again and again in American history. The genocide of the Pequots in 1637. Juan de Oñate’s genocide against the Acoma in 1599. Massacre after massacre after massacre as white Americans moved west. Sand Creek. Wounded Knee.

Honestly, it’s too bad that the Aztecs or the peoples of Virginia under the leadership of Powhatan didn’t wipe out the Europeans, although doing so would only have been a delay of white conquest rather than a permanent victory. In any case, the white supremacist Americas began by Columbus still very much resonates today. In the United States, Native Americans, subject a centuries-long genocidal project, still suffer tremendously. Jobs are scarce on the reservations and old ways of life are not tenable. Suicide rates are the highest in the nation. Drug use is endemic. Education is poor and so is health care or access to decent food. Whites not only easily forget this (on the East Coast at least, race = black and white), but where there are sizable numbers of Native Americans, open racism remains extreme. If anything, the nation has become even more racist in the last decade and that includes toward Native Americans.

There is nothing to celebrate about Christopher Columbus. Like the South that chooses to remember its “history,” i.e., the four years it committed treason in defense of slavery, Italian-Americans can find someone else to venerate, someone who did not commit genocide.

This should be a national day of shame for Americans, assuming Americans are ever actually capable of self-reflection or shame.

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