“Columbus = genocide,” “Got genocide? Murderers don’t deserve
holidays” and “Columbus = murderer” are some of the chalkings that
now appear on pavement around campus.
Earlier this week, members of the Native American Student
Association and La Voz Latina chalked central campus with these
messages in protest of Christopher Columbus Day, which is Oct.
NASA Co-Chair Nickole Fox said that most people don’t know or
pay attention to the darker side of Columbus’ historic arrival to
“It’s an eye catcher so people will look into the issue a little
bit more. A lot of people grow up with the idea that Columbus is a
hero, but he also did a lot of bad things and we just wanted to
point that out,” said Fox, an LSA senior. “He killed a lot of
But many students believe the chalkings improperly question
Speaking out against the chalkings, Bobby Raham, co-chair of the
Young Americans for Freedom, believes they will lead to further
criticism of American history.
“Frankly it’s ridiculous. If they’re going to say this, they’ll
probably start saying Washington and Jefferson were racists,” said
Raham, an LSA sophomore. “Columbus’ contributions changed the
course of history. … Everybody makes mistakes.”
“But I’m not saying they shouldn’t be allowed to do the
chalkings. They are entitled to their opinion,” he added.
History Prof. Nancy Hunt said it is debatable whether Columbus
himself committed genocide or any of murders.
“It’s good that it makes people think about history and allows
people to question why Columbus is a hero or whether he is a hero.
Holidays tend to create public debates over what historical
interpretations are made,” Hunt said.
Law School student Michelle d’Amico said she appreciates the
right to free speech but the way the groups are speaking out is
pointless and misguided.
“It’s cowardly. If you make a bold statement like that, you need
to back it up. These people should hold some sort of a forum to
discuss the issue,” she said. “I would like to see the research in
a comprehensive fashion. They are trying to change people’s minds
and in order to do this, they need to present facts. No one will
change their mind just because of some chalkings on the Diag.”
On the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America in
1892, President Benjamin Harrison declared the first official
Columbus Day. The Knights of Columbus, an international Roman
Catholic society, urged state legislatures to legally make Oct. 12
a holiday. In 1907, Colorado became the first state to make
Columbus Day a legal holiday. New York did the same in 1909 and
celebrated the day on Oct. 12 with a parade with Italian-American
societies, Italian ship crews and the Knights of Columbus. The
second Monday of October has been a federal holiday since 1971.
Since the late 19th century, Italian-Americans have held a close
connection with Columbus Day.
“As an Italian, I know Italian-Americans get excited about
America being named after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian, and
Columbus, also an Italian,” d’Amico said. “The holiday is not
celebrating everything this man did. We are celebrating him
discovering this country.”