Should the U.S. remove statues of Christopher Columbus? | The Tylt

Should the U.S. remove statues of Christopher Columbus?

The debate surrounding tributes to Christopher Columbus is not a new one. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue...pillaged the land he found, enslaved the people he encountered and orchestrated mass genocide. Although largely celebrated in elementary and middle school classrooms across America, Columbus is a symbol of colonization and terror, and for this reason, many feel statues glorifying his legacy should be removed. Others argue removing the statues would hardly atone for the atrocities committed and is tantamount to erasing history. What do you think?

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In early June, protestors removed a statue of Columbus in Richmond, VA. In no uncertain terms, the protestors said Columbus is a symbol of genocide and therefore should not be glorified or normalized by public tributes. According to The Hill's Morgan Gstalter, the statue was pulled down by protestors and thrown into a nearby lake. 

The base of the statue was covered in graffiti and protesters held signs reading “This land is Powhatan land” and “Columbus represents genocide.”
A makeshift headstone poster was also placed in front of the sunken statute in the water that read “Racism. You will not be missed.”

According to Gstalter, Vanessa Bolin of the Richmond Indigenous Society addressed the crowd prior to the statues' removal. Bolin emphasized this form of protest was an act of solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests across the world: 

“This continent is built on the blood and the bones of our ancestors, but it is built off the backs and the sweat and the tears and the blood and the bones of Africans,” Bolin said. “We’re not here to hijack your movement. We’re here to stand in solidarity.”
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Some see actions like those taken in Richmond and believe it is tantamount to erasing history. 

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Others respond by saying it is not the history itself being erased; it is the glorification of historical figures who committed atrocities. The conversation surrounding the removal of statues of Columbus has been ongoing for years. In early 2018, The Hill's Gstalter covered another statue removal—this time, in the lobby of the San Jose, CA City Hall.

After this statue was vandalized twice, the San Jose city council voted to remove the symbol, seeing that it caused more strife among the city's residents than pride in Columbus's supposed contributions. According to Gstalter, this is what the statue meant to those calling for its removal:

'A symbol of genocide,' that glorified European colonialism and violence against Native Americans after Columbus's 1492 voyage to America.
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But for some critics, taking down tributes to Columbus—or any other historical figure for that matter—neither compensates for his crimes nor makes any significant progress in solving the centuries-long consequences. As one opinion writer for USA Today puts it:

These symbolic changes are a cheap and easy way to compensate people for centuries of mistreatment, and they might make us feel momentarily virtuous when a plaque comes down or a street sign is changed. 
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In the fall of 2017, a statue of Columbus located in New York's Central Park was defaced. This instance was not the first of its kind and shows the emotions Columbus' likeness evokes in people. The New York Times's Sarah Maslin Nir and Jeffery C. Mays reported that in response to the vandalism:

Mayor Bill de Blasio convened a commission to review of the city’s iconography for possible removal, including images of Columbus, whose 1492 voyage to the Caribbean, historians say, was at the grave cost of the indigenous people there.

Two weeks prior to this incident, another statue of Columbus was vandalized in the Queens area. According to NBC New York:

The vandals had used stencils to spray the words 'Don't honor genocide, take it down.'

Consistent vandalism reflects the passion surrounding the topic. Tributes to Columbus do nothing but perpetuate the idea that he is a heroic figure who paved the way for America. This country exists in spite of Columbus's atrocities, and taking down his statues is a very minimal first step towards paying reparations to the peoples he has wronged. 

#DontEraseHistory

The country can't change its past, but it can take action to reflect that past more accurately. Some say there's a compromise to be found when it comes to statues of Columbus and other controversial historical figures: plaques can be placed near or on the statues to explain controversies surrounding their existence.

In early 2018, a New York City commission chose this route for one statue in Columbus Circle. ABC 7 New York's Candace McCowan reports that after a 90-day review:

The commission released a report recommending that most of the statues that came under scrutiny, which some consider symbols of hate, should remain.
But when it comes to the Christopher Columbus statue, a historical marker will be added.
The city will also add a new monument to honor indigenous people.
Other controversial statues around the city will have markers added to give additional context.

According to this commission, collectively, the people of this country can still stay true to history–the good and the bad.

FINAL RESULTS
Culture
Should the U.S. remove statues of Christopher Columbus?
#TakeDownColumbus
A festive crown for the winner
#DontEraseHistory