The importance of Christopher Columbus

Sep 05, 2017 1032

BY: Joseph V. Scelsa

Christopher Columbus is of importance not only to Italian Americans, but to the majority of Americans who have European and Latino lineage. His quest to find a route to India, while navigationally flawed, represented a new way of thinking for mankind, and a way to use one’s natural curiosity to embark on challenging endeavors.

We as Italian Americans celebrate his accomplishments, which led to mass migrations to the New World by so many diverse cultures giving them the  hope to start new lives in the Americas for themselves and their families fleeing the oppression of tyrannical European Governments. At the same time, we can acknowledge that heinous acts were committed, but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of honoring the positive aspects of his journeys. 

What happened in Los Angeles, as well as a number of other areas with eliminating Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day, is not the best way to teach history, in my view.  Pitting one group against another is somewhat hostile, and runs counter to the well-being and spirit of our traditional pluralistic society.

As an educator and museum president, and in keeping with the principles of constructive pluralism,  I believe there is room to teach all aspects of particular historical events. This is best accomplished in classrooms, discussions and open debate. We cannot change what any historical figure did or did not do, good or bad, but we can indeed learn more by speaking to one another than by removing public symbols like statues. I think it would be more effective to have a separate day celebrating Native Americans, and one that isn’t driven by harsh negativity.

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