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Honoring Christopher Columbus Today? Not So Fast…

It is way past time to change “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”

We were taught in elementary school that Christopher Columbus “discovered America” in 1492, and therefore, we should be so grateful that we should give him with his own “day” every 2nd Monday of October, closing government offices and having 50% off sales in his honor.

There is a growing movement in many states, however, to change the official holiday from “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”, to honor the many nations and cultures who were already on this continent and hemisphere before the Europeans arrived, and to remind people of the atrocities committed by Christopher Columbus during his four voyages here, when he at first thought he landed in India. And in case you didn’t know, he never reached the mainland United States.


Changing the holiday to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” starts to make a lot of sense when you learn the history after America was “discovered.” One of the first things to notice is how Columbus portrayed the natives in his journal. He described the friendly indigenous population as aggressive, and even as cannibals who drank the blood of their victims. Certainly, not a good payback for those who helped him and his men settle in a completely unknown land for them.

columbusNow that we started talking about his crew, there are a couple more of things people should know. First of all, can you imagine what kind of people decided to leave their home and family to embark on an adventure in a time where they believed the earth was flat? People who had nothing to lose for sure. A big part of Columbus’ crew were criminals running away from authorities, people with no moral standards or principles. It is not hard to image what happened next. Pillaging, raping, enslavement, and slaughtering were just some of the atrocities that the natives saw and lived through after Columbus and his crew arrived. Without any kind of control, government, or authorities in the new land, Columbus ruled at his pleasure.

As cruelty against natives started to become somewhat normal, Columbus started to have several detractors. News of the atrocities committed by him and his men along with his mismanagement of the island’s resources created enough outrage that in 1500, he was removed as governor, arrested, and transported in chains to Spain. But there is no happy ending, Columbus wasn’t punished, he didn’t pay for what he did. King Ferdinand liked Columbus so much, that he not only pardoned him but funded his fourth voyage.

After almost eradicating the indigenous population in different areas of the American Continent, Columbus also established a precedent for centuries of raping and pillaging by other European colonists. 

Does celebrating genocide sound right? No, it doesn’t. People shouldn’t celebrate that America was discovered, people should honor those who lost their homes, traditions, and lives. 

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Justice Or Else 2015 Million Man March 20th Anniversary

Million Man March 2015

Aerial Photo of the 2015 Million Man March, Washington D.C. October 10, 2015. Credit: Ebony Magazine.

The 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March, this year titled on “Justice Or Else”, brought hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children to Washington D.C. on Saturday, October 10, 2015. This third Million Man March (MMM) was again organized by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.

It seemed as if just about every group was in attendance: Christians, Muslims, Blacks, whites, Latinos, Indigenous Peoples, representatives of all kinds of causes, LGBT, young, old, and in between. The theme, however, highlighted the recent rash of police brutality and deadly shooting cases against Black people, as well as a continued push for unity and inclusion.

No matter what one’s personal opinion of Louis Farrakhan, he is the only Black leader who can put out a call for a march such as this and people show up from all over the United States and other countries.

Lasting from about 10 am until about 6 pm, the Million Man March was again a peaceful gathering, with full cooperation of the Capitol Police Department and the Fruit of Islam (FOI), the security force for the Nation of Islam (NOI).

Although always eager to cover riots or other “bad” events involving Black people and other People of Color (POC), not one major media outlet even mentioned the March. Only C-Span was present and broadcast the event, although several online news outlets also covered the event.

The success of the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, as well as ability for people to find out about, travel to and from DC safely, and enjoy a beautiful day of unity at a very well-organized event, again reminds us that we do not need others to speak for us or validate us.

Compare that with the failed 20-city anti-Islam rallies that were planned at mosques around the country, called the “Global Rally for Humanity”, and were meant to have armed white “Christians” intimate Muslims at their places of worship and especially protest again Louis Farrakhan. Almost no protesters showed in the various cities, and in several places supporters outnumbered protestors.

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In Defense of Social Security

Every American who has worked at least one job has a Social Security card and unique ID number.

Every American who has worked at least one job has a Social Security card and unique ID number.

Social Security is NOT an “entitlement”, it is an old-age insurance policy into which regular payments have been made throughout an employee’s work life. The payouts are guaranteed by the government and do not add to the deficit. It is self-sustained and paid for by today’s workers. For a history and explanation of where we are with Social Security today, please read the following post by Caroline Peterson, Summer 2015 Intern.

Social responsibility and a sense of community seem to be lost and misunderstood concepts in much of the American consciousness. Part of that could be the natural inclination of the United States to shy away from anything that doesn’t coincide with the “free-for-all” culture many Americans try to desperately to defend; however, a lot of our collective reluctance to accept social programs comes from certain myths that are perpetuated, predominantly by the very wealthy. Social Security is one of those ‘dreaded’ social programs that is often under attack.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Committee on Economic Security, headed by Frances Perkins, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet, created the Social Security Act of 1935. It was part of FDR’s New Deal, which reimagined the role of government in the economic market and in the country after the disastrous Great Depression. Social Security was established to aid certain Americans who were often pushed to the wayside and carried unfair burdens in society, such as the elderly, the poor, the unemployed, widowed women, and children with no present father. Social Security is a social insurance program protects some of the most vulnerable in American society and provides aid to those who simply cannot “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.”

Those who attack Social Security will often say that it adds to the national deficit, but that argument is clearly illogical when one considers how Social Security is actually funded—through income taxes that every working person pays into. It is an insurance system that people pay into for their entire working lives in anticipation for retirement, or as a precaution in the event tragedy strikes, such as the death of a working spouse.

Another problem that many people have with Social Security is that they believe it is going to go broke. There are three reasons why that could happen: 1) the billions of dollars President George Bush took from the Social Security fund for war; 2) the cap on earnings taxed for social security is only $118,500, letting the wealthy off the hook; and 3) the baby boomer generation outnumbers millennials, and therefore more retirees are collecting social security than there are young working people paying into it. These are not reasons to scrap Social Security. It should be simply modified to fit current economic conditions, and the super wealthy should NOT be exempt from Social Security taxes.

There have been calls to privatize Social Security and have its payouts fluctuate with the stock market. But how is this reliable and “secure’? Social Security was established to counter the effects of the most disastrous stock market crash in U.S. history; we cannot allow it to fail with the stock market when it is our safety net from stock market crashes. If payouts were made according to the fluctuations of the stock market, people could do everything right with their finances and still lose out upon their retirement because of circumstances beyond their control. There have also been efforts to raise the retirement age and force the elderly to work longer before collecting their rightful Social Security benefits, despite the elderly’s health needs and quality of life and the fact that this cheats them out of what they have been promised to receive at the end of their working lives.

When we think of our own lives, our relationship to others in society, and the reality of what it is like to live in our nation, we can clearly see why Social Security is necessary; it allows us to reap the benefits of working our entire lives and gives us comfort and a good quality of life in our old age. Likewise, when we are made vulnerable by the death of a working person in our household, or we are suddenly left unemployed, we can collect from what we have paid into in order to keep ourselves afloat. Even if there are flaws in the Social Security system, it is clear how it was an enormous step forward for our country, and one we cannot allow to be reversed.

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