Written by Aanya Krishna – a grade 6 student.
On June 10th, anti-racism protesters tore down a statue of Christopher Columbus in Minneapolis, Virginia (in the United States of America). These protests were sparked by the death of a black man, George Floyd, by a Minneapolis police officer. The protesters only meant to spray-paint the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the statue but soon things went out of hand. Columbus’ statue was taken down, set on fire, and thrown into a lake in Byrd Park.
Why was it torn down? And what message did the tearing down of the statue signify?
On May 25th, a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, was killed in Minneapolis (USA) during an arrest for using a counterfeit currency note at a store. Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down in the street. This shocking incident triggered demonstrations and protests across more than 75 cities in the US and around the world against police brutality and racism.
As a part of these anti-racism protests, several statues across the US and Europe that glorify individuals who are connected to slavery and colonialism have been either pulled down or defaced. In the US, Native American activists have always objected to honouring Christopher Columbus stating that his expeditions to America led to the colonization and genocide of their ancestors. This has been the primary reason for the removal of his statues in recent incidents.
What did the statue signify?
American textbooks credit Christopher Columbus, an Italian born explorer, for discovering “the New World” – the Americas – in the 15th century. For many years, Italian immigrants were considered outsiders by the Europeans who came to Minnesota before them. The statue of Christopher Columbus was installed to support the Italian community, by honouring the most notable Italian in United States history at the time. He first arrived in the Americas on October 12, 1492, a date marked as Columbus Day in the United States.
How is it related to the anti-racism protests in the USA?
Controversy over Columbus is nothing new in America. For years, activists have believed that his expeditions to America prompted the colonisation and genocide of their ancestors. In fact, in recent years, many cities and states in America have replaced Columbus Day (a day celebrated to mark his arrival) with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The current situation has only further aggravated this thought process.
Written by: Aanya Krishna
Aanya is a grade 6 student. A voracious reader she also loves to draw and doodle. Like her whole family, she is also a big foodie!
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