By Aby Sanchez
In 2019, many crimes were committed in the name of white supremacy. When these lone wolf actors are taught that a white man “found” and “built” this nation, they experience a sense of superiority and entitlement to reclaim this land and take extreme measures to protect it. But this land is not theirs. And it was not built by them.
They are taught to celebrate mass murderers like Columbus, but this hides a horrific truth. The truth that the America’s and the Caribbean was actually formed on the mass genocide, enslavement and rape of indigenous people.
Too often public education paints Columbus’ actions as justifiable by portraying indigenous people as “savages,” which is a false narrative white supremacist colonizers preach.
Victor Valerio, a senior at CCNY and political science major, recalls when his high school teacher showed the movie Apocalypto to the class around Columbus Day. “Immediately I knew the movie was depicting a horrible Eurocentric view of indigenous people’s,” says Valerio. “A lot of how indigenous people were portrayed are still present today. People who immigrate from Latin America and the Carribiean are viewed as the ‘other’ and ‘barbaric’ which need to be assimilated into western culture ideals.”
He points out that his teacher was well aware that Columbus was a horrible man, but still chose to show the class this view of indigenous people, making Columbus’ actions seem justifiable. European narritives depict non-white people as “the other” to justify their oppression. When students are only given one side of the story, specifically the white male narrative, they will continue to live their life believing these lies and implement racist beliefs throughout their future.
Bridget Cantor, a senior majoring in sociology at Muhlenberg College and a future educator, is concerned “with any teacher who doesn’t encourage their students to question the past.”
“We do students a disservice when we celebrate only Columbus’s bravery without noting how he personified evil and wrongdoing,” says Cantor. “Ignorance comes from a place of not being educated, and many of these policies we have today and in the past stems from folks, typically white, who choose to ignore horrific moments in history.” Cantor highlights that all students, not just students of color, would benefit from truly understanding the actual history and intentions of white supremacy.
Gabriel Reyes, a political science major at CCNY, notes how important it is that history be replaced beyond the walls of educational institutions. “In order to combat this white supremacist narrative, there must be a complete overhaul, not just in our education system, but in the power that Native indigenoeus people hold in our government over their own lives,” says Reyes.
“The same group of white men who justified and celebrated Columbus’ ‘discovery’ are the same ones who have influenced our Constitution, education and history for hundreds of years,” Reyes continues, “the dangers of white supremacy have silenced indigeneous voices and rights throughout the world.”
People of color are forced to assimilate to western culture ideals, this often includes denouncing their religion, their culture and their language to survive. People should not have to choose between their roots or surviving in the western world. “The problem is that western ideals refuse to accept others,” says Valerio.“Assimilating will never be enough, and we will always be told to continue our journey into self-hatred.”
Reyes concludes, “It’s almost impossible to repair hundreds of years of genocide and robbery indigenous people have suffered, but the least we can do is educate our people about the real history and introduce methods in which indigenous people have control over their story.”