This year, Seattle, Wash., will recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day. Opposition to this holiday comes from historical facts about Christopher Columbus that include his treatment of native people that historians call genocide. While no American should celebrate Columbus’ crimes, everyone should honor the exploratory spirit that brought the first settlers to this continent.
History is not free of blemish. An example of this is in stories of immigrants who came to this country and experienced discrimination. I would like to reflect on one group’s experience.
The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal organization that was founded in 1882 by Father Michael McGivney. During that time, racial and religious biases led to claims that Catholics could never become Americans. To combat these views, the Knights chose Columbus as a symbol that their allegiance to their faith did not conflict with their American identity.
During WWI, Knights established welfare centers so military men could have a place to relax. While America was still racially divided, Knights raised banners over these centers that read “Everybody Welcome, Everything Free.” No matter race or creed, all were welcome to partake in the generosity of the Knights. Though Knights would continue to face hardships, they always met adversity with a Christian response. Slowly, they gained acceptance in American society for all Catholics. Their charity continues today. In the first decade of the 21st century, Knights donated $1.5 billion to charity and provided more than 673 million hours of volunteer service.
This Columbus Day — amidst the controversy of the past — acknowledge blemishes in our nation’s history, but also recognize how we have improved. There will surely be mistakes made in the future, but if we remain close to our values as Christians and Americans, we will continue to improve. Happy Columbus Day!
– Chicago senior Martin C. Kudra
Political science major