A statue of Christopher Columbus in 2017 was marked with graffiti in Columbus Triangle park in Queens, N.Y., overnight. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Opinion

Opinion: End the debate: Columbus was not all that

Even though Columbus' journey had its pros, they don't outweigh the cons.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/alexella123/" target="_self">Alexandrah Naranjo</a>

Alexandrah Naranjo

January 29, 2022
Despite the lives lost and families torn apart by Christopher Columbus’ hands, the education system is continuing to teach that maybe Columbus wasn’t all bad. Even in a progressive Los Angeles High School, an AP World History teacher gives his sophomores the task of weighing the pro and cons of Columbus’ journey.

In fourteen hundred ninety-two/Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” We’re all familiar with the poem in 1492, likely being taught it in kindergarten, or perhaps even younger. The story is simple, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella gave Columbus his three ships, he found the Americas, thinking it was India and brought back gold for Spain.

Truly an inspiring tale. Or is it?

Among a large number of Americans, Columbus is an important figure who changed the lives of many for the better. He granted Spain prosperity in his time and gave us America as we know it. Others understand that while he accomplished some important things, there were a lot of negative factors which should also be considered.

Some people, especially natives who are still affected by his actions to this day, will tell you that Columbus is not a symbol of discovery like some will lead you to believe, but rather one of murder, rape and other treachery which many of the aforementioned refuse to hold him accountable for.

This debate is not new. It was especially great as concerns arose over the holiday of Columbus Day, and when his statue was torn down following the murder of George Floyd. The discourse has been around for many years and will continue to be prominent as more and more natives feel comfortable speaking out. It doesn’t however, only have to do with holidays and statues, but with the education, schools are still providing our youth.

At a LAUSD school, students were shocked when told to complete a short persuasive essay on the positives and negatives of Columbus’ voyage. They were made to do so with sources that concerned many students in the class over their bias, such as “America: Imagine a World Without Her” and “When World Collide: How Columbus’s Voyages Transformed Both East and West.”

These sources used the outdated term “Indians” to refer to Native Americans, implied they deserved what they were given, and generally made many students feel uncomfortable. With the given sources, some felt that other points of view went unrepresented and when concerns were voiced debate broke out, and these students were told to use the given sources instead of ones they could find on their own, and that finding better ones would cause more work for their teacher.

Everyone knows that good came from Columbus’ voyage that cannot be disagreed with, but that does not mean that it is fair or anything short of disrespectful to debate whether it outweighs the losses, because they don’t and they never will.

Native groups were decimated and violated for wealth and greed, their land stolen, their identities challenged and their quality of life in the hands of those who care nothing for them. Ponder whether these things were worth what Columbus succeeded in doing is inappropriate and needs to stop. End the debate, because there never truly was one to begin with.