Holiday continues to spark debate over Columbus

Oct 9, 2017

Today is Columbus Day, a national holiday that, again, revives the annual fight over whether or not to memorialize Christopher Columbus.

The Columbus name can be found in many parts of Buffalo. A local push is emerging to have the name removed.
Credit Mike Desmond/WBFO News

On Sunday, a group proposing to change the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day interrupted a wreath-laying at Manhattan's enormous memorial to Columbus. That movement is gaining support in Western New York.

Brandon Absher, a philosophy professor at D'Youville College. is a founder of the Buffalo Anti-Racism Coalition. He has written to the Council proposing the statue be removed from Buffalo's Columbus Park and the park's name be changed.

The matter is expected to be reviewed at Tuesday's meeting of the Legislation Committee.

Councilmember David Franczyk offered perspective on the life and times of Christopher Columbus. s

"None of this is stuff that any of us condone," Franczyk said. 

"Since the Enlightenment, the idea is that torture is wrong, death penalty is wrong but at that time Columbus thought torture was right. The crowned heads of Europe thought that, mostly in the name of conversion in the name of God and some of the native people believed in that as part of their cultural and war traditions."

Absher countered that school of thought.

A target of growing criticism, a statue of Christopher Columbus remains standing in Buffalo's Columbus Park.
Credit Mike Desmond/WBFO News

"There's a kind of slippery slope implied here and I don't think we have to step down the slippery slope," said Absher, referring to the comparisons drawn between the brutality attributed to Columbus and the slaveholding practices of some of the Founding Fathers.

"If we look at George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, there are clearly ideals that most of us, nearly all of us can get behind that they represented and fought for even though they did things that we would look upon as immoral."