A response to the Young Americans for Freedom, in support of the University’s decision to cover murals of Christopher Columbus:
- YAF’s anger toward what they call “a small, vocal group of the ND community” seems misplaced given the fact that they, too, are a small, vocal group in this community making demands of Fr. Jenkins.
- Though Columbus was a Catholic, that does not absolve him of his mistreatment of the Native American peoples. I’m sure he may have spread Catholicism, but imagine how much more prominent it might be had Columbus and other Catholic explorers not engaged in the brutal murder and enslavement of hundreds of thousands of native peoples. Catholicism is a religion of love, and Columbus fell far short of that bar.
- Regardless of his religion and the murals’ original purpose, we cannot ignore Columbus’ wrong-doing and I certainly will not celebrate him for it.
- If this is an “arbitrary standard of political correctness,” when can we hold anyone accountable for their actions? Surely YAF, whose founding document seeks to “affirm certain eternal truths” such as individuals’ freedom “from the restrictions of arbitrary force,” will recognize that the systematic enslavement of natives by Columbus contravenes their own values.
- YAF’s “irreversible spiral” claim is a fallacious slippery slope, and the University is not “erasing history.” The administration is not, for example, censoring any mention of Columbus. Far from it, the murals will still be made available for viewing along with the contextualization that they require.
- A similar debate rages on in my home state of Mississippi regarding the continued presence of prominent Confederate symbols on the state flag. In 2015, the administration of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) decided not to continue flying the flag on campus, not as a rejection of the school’s Southern roots, but because the flag “means that some members of the Ole Miss family are not welcomed or valued.” While the comparison between Columbus and the Confederacy is not 1:1, the similarities between debates of their modern representation is striking.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.