This week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and vandals in Baltimore, Md., targeted statues of Christopher Columbus. By doing so, they joined horrible company, however. Among historic foes of Columbus statues is the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the National Christopher Columbus Association (NCCA) noted.
“Columbus has been a target of white supremacists since the 1920s, when a resurgent Ku Klux Klan attacked monuments and celebrations of Columbus from coast to coast,” Patrick Korten, a member of NCCA’s board of directors, said in a statement.
“They hated that he was Mediterranean not Anglo, that he sailed for Spain, not England, that he was popular in the immigrant community, and most of all, that he was Catholic,” Korten added, noting that “Catholics, along with African Americans and Jews, were regular targets of the Klan.”
The NCCA board member warned that “the disparagement of Columbus today has its roots in a centuries-old habit of painting Italian and Hispanic immigrants in this country as cruel, violent, sexually aggressive and untrustworthy. In the context of Spanish exploration, this is known as the ‘Black Legend’ — based on propaganda peddled about Spain dating from the 16th century, which continues to be the grist for racially tinged comments about Hispanics and Italians to this day.”
Contrary to this hateful narrative, Korten argued that “modern biographers, including Stanford University professor emerita Carol Delaney, have shown that Columbus was a decent man who was improperly blamed for everything that went wrong after 1492.”
In a 2014 interview, Delaney said, “The late 20th century brought a lot of critique about him from the perspective of the natives, and Columbus has become a symbol for everything that went wrong. But the more I read of his own writings and that of his contemporaries, my understanding of him totally changed.”
The historian noted that Columbus’ “relations with the natives tended to be benign. He liked the natives and found them to be very intelligent.” Indeed, the discoverer “strictly told the crew not to do things like maraud, or rape, and instead to treat the native people with respect.” Columbus’ crew even rebelled over his restrictions to treat the natives well.
Furthermore, Delaney noted that “as far as I can tell, Columbus never had any slaves, nor did he intend to get slaves when he want across the ocean.”
Even so, on Sunday night, activists vandalized the statue of Columbus in Baltimore. They published a video explaining their actions, in which they condemn both Columbus and George Washington as “genocidal terrorists.”
Last night, activists in Baltimore took a sledgehammer to the oldest Christopher Columbus monument in the US. Then they uploaded this video: pic.twitter.com/MxN9YrT7cF
— Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) August 21, 2017
On Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested that a review of monuments intending to remove “symbols of hate” might involve the 100-year-old Columbus statue in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. “We have to look at everything here,” de Blasio said during Wednesday night’s Democratic mayor debate, CBS News reported.
Melissa Mark-Viverito, the city council speaker and a backer of de Blasio, defended this position. “Christopher Columbus is a controversial figure to many of us particularly in the Caribbean and I think that that has to be looked at, when you have to look at history we have to look at it thoroughly and clearly,” she said.
Interestingly, de Blasio’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Sal Albanese, warned that removing the statue would be a “slippery slope.”
Blogger Rob “NZ” Neppell suggested de Blasio should look a little bit *ahem* closer to home. The New York governor’s mansion is named after Archibald Gracie, a Scottish shipping magnate whose grandson, Archibald Gracie III, voluntarily joined the Confederacy.
“How about starting with the Gracie Mansion,” Neppell tweeted.
How about starting with Gracie Mansion?
"Archibald Gracie III (1832–1864), a general in the Confederate Army…"https://t.co/e6lVwOy6V5
— Rob 'NZ' Neppell (@rneppell) August 24, 2017
Neppell quoted Wikipedia, “Alabama[‘s] cause in the War Between the States he had adopted passionately as his own. [But] Gen. Gracie had not been born in Alabama nor anywhere else in what would become for five bloody years the Confederate States of America. He was born in New York, in the ancestral home that has since become the official residence of NYC’s mayors.”
“Gen Gracie is the grandson of the first Archibald Gracie, who build what is now Gracie Mansion — where de Blasio sleeps each night,” the blogger added. “So, if the good mayor wants to cleans the city of unclean thoughts, maybe he should get the name of a Confederate general off his house.”
…so, if the good mayor wants to cleanse the city of unclean thoughts, maybe he should get the name of a Confederate general off his house.
— Rob 'NZ' Neppell (@rneppell) August 24, 2017
Perhaps instead of attacking Christopher Columbus — who cannot be blamed for bringing European diseases of which he had no idea to America — de Blasio should start the renaming campaign with his own residence.
Either that, or the good people of New York should pull the lever for Albanese, a man who — whatever his faults — understands the problems with wiping important historical monuments out of public view.
Before the Left targets Christopher Columbus, perhaps they should re-examine the racist roots of the historical myths against the great navigator, and find a figure more deserving of vitriol. (Might Japanese-Americans suggest Franklin Delano Roosevelt?)