Saturday, October 12, 2019

What condemning Christopher Columbus actually means

It is becoming more and more popular to condemn Christopher Columbus and other explorers who came to the Americas centuries ago. Many people justify these attacks as being "progressive", "enlightened", and "compassionate". But are they really? What does vilifying Christopher Columbus actually mean?

1) You can't correctly judge other times and cultures by current norms.

It's easy to look at other times and other cultures and condemn them for doing things differently than we do or thinking differently than we do, but being different does not necessary mean being wrong.

Angela Rocco DeCarlo, a writer for the Chicago Tribune and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, made a great point when she wrote: "It’s intellectually dicey to judge those who lived hundreds of years ago according to modern norms. Doctors who routinely infected women during childbirth out of ignorance of the germ theory of disease are not reviled today. But European explorers who were similarly ignorant about how diseases are spread are routinely abused for the illnesses that befell inhabitants of the New World from lack of natural immunity."1

In fifty years, many people will look back at the current attitudes and practices of today and be embarrassed wondering how our society was able to survive with such ignorant and misguided beliefs and actions. They will condemn and apologize for current society because they have different ideas, beliefs, and customs than we do.

2) Columbus represents the American Melting Pot 

Columbus was one of the original American immigrants. He introduced two worlds to each. He made it possible for two worlds to share their ideas, cultures, and advancements with each other so both could benefit. Yes, not all of the interactions were positive, that is a natural consequence of two cultures/societies interacting.

Condemning Columbus means you condemn immigrants (because Columbus was one of the first immigrants to this part of the world), reject immigration (because that was the result of Columbus' discovery), and consider mixing cultures or ideas as bad.

3) Without Columbus and the Spanish colonization of the Western Hemisphere that followed, Latinos as a people would not exist. 

Latinos are the offspring of Spanish Explorers and native people in the Americas. If you consider Columbus' voyage to be a mistake with only negative results, then you logically consider Latinos to be a mistake and a negative result.

"While folks on the mainland wring their hands over whether to take monuments to Columbus down, Puerto Rico is putting them up. Last year the city of Arecibo inaugurated a Columbus monument taller than the Statue of Liberty ... a gift to the U.S. from sculptor Zurab Tsereteli."2

4) Columbus was led by God.

The conclusion of Delno West’s introduction to the English translation of Columbus' Book of Prophecies summarizes his character and motives: “Christopher Columbus looked upon himself as a man of destiny who had been given a charismatic gift to understand Scripture, navigation, maps, winds, tides, astronomy, cosmography, mathematics and related sciences. His understanding of his mission, or enterprise, was drawn from the Bible or proved by the Bible, and he knew that he was opening up new lands rich with gold and other valuables. He believed himself a chosen person working for the good of all Christendom in opening up the rest of the world to the gospel message. He knew that he would be misunderstood and maligned, but he accepted that as the lot of a divinely chosen person.”3 Ancient prophets foresaw the Europeans coming to North and South America as part of God's plan.3

Condemning Columbus is deny prophesy and the plans of a being who knows more than we do.

5) The Native Americans / Indigenous People were people.

Some people have a strange idea that everyone who lived in the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans were this mythical race who were peaceful, in tune with nature, kind to all they met--basically perfect. They ignore actual history of warlords who conquered their neighbors, raped women, kidnapped children, sold each other into slavery, performed human sacrifice, and committed other unspeakable atrocities.

The people who were here before Columbus landed were no different than the people in the world Columbus had sailed from. There were good people who did good things and cared about others. There were bad people who committed unconscionable acts. There were people in between who did some good and some bad. They were people, human beings not all that different from other human beings despite the color of their skin.

Columbus had his virtues and his vices. The native population had their virtues and vices. Replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day is to deny that indigenous people were, and still are, people.


While everyone is entitled to their beliefs, those beliefs should be consistent and rational. To condemn Columbus but support immigration is irrational and makes no sense: Columbus was one of the first immigrants. To support freedom, liberty, progress, technology, medicine but condemn Columbus makes no sense, because he brought those western ideals to the other side of the ocean.

Before you jump on a bandwagon or fad, take a minute and ask yourself this very important question: Do you actually understand what you are advocating, and do you agree with it?


1 Angela Rocco DeCarlo, Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2017,

2 Jennifer C. Braceras, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 24, 2017,

3 De Lamar Jensen, Ensign, October 1992,

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