by Zach Alecci, Graeme Eber, & Jonathan Nevius
In case you haven’t heard, there is a major push to change the name and theme of a federal holiday. In recent years, individuals and activist groups have been fighting state and local governments to officially change the name of “Columbus Day,” a day traditionally used to celebrate Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the new world to “Indigenous People’s Day,” which celebrates the natives of the Western Hemisphere who were enslaved, displaced, and killed by European settlement. It’s taken some time, but this movement has now led to legislative changes within some local and state governments.
Columbus Day was first celebrated in 1792 in New York to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the New World. It didn’t become a federal holiday until 1937, though. The reason for the new holiday makes it a unique situation, too. At the time, the US had a massive influx of Italian immigrants, which many Americans saw as a threat to their wellbeing (like how many view Hispanic immigrants today). To soften feelings toward immigrants, Columbus Day was developed to promote an “Italian hero.”
The ethics of Columbus Day remaining or departing as a federal holiday lie between descendents of indigenous people, and Italian-Americans. The best outcome is Utilitarian, and is the outcome in which both groups are respected and represented.
In recent years, many states and communities have made progress toward a solution to the controversy, including the District of Columbia. While there has not been a name change on a federal level, these communities have decided to use local changes as incremental steps toward greater change.
What do you think? Talk to us – leave a comment below with your opinion on Columbus Day.