I have been seeing a lot of posts about how Columbus was a horrible person who did terrible things generally and, in particular, that his voyage to the Americas triggered the beginnings of some truly awful times for the indigenous people who were already there. I think some of the vitriol is a little over the top for someone who has been dead for half a millennium. That level of emotional response strongly suggests that a person is using Columbus as a proxy for things they dislike about the present. The time was ripe for some European voyage of exploration to bump into the Americas. So, Columbus or not, I doubt the Americas would have been undiscovered by Europeans for more than another 50 years or so.
The experience of the people indigenous to the Americas wouldn’t have been great no matter who arrived first. Among other things, even with the most egalitarian intentions (which wasn’t going to happen), first contact by anyone from Eurasia or Africa was going to mean the introduction of ravaging diseases. It’s my understanding that the mistreatment by the Spaniards, egregious as it was, paled in significance compared to the deaths caused by disease.
Causing Columbus to carry the baggage for the horrors of European society seems like a heavier load than he deserves. But, even if he was a decent fellow — a claim I don’t make — his feats of exploration don’t seem all that impressive, relative to some others you could point to. My knowledge of exploration is heavily white and European, so I apologize for my lack of familiarity outside of that narrow circle. But, Prince Henry the Navigator had Portuguese exploration accomplishing quite a bit prior to Columbus. Magellan’s voyage sailed around the world (though he did not — Enrique of Malacca may have been the first person to go around the world. Juan Sebastian Elcano should probably be credited with the first circumnavigation.) Sir Francis Drake completed the second circumnavigation and did so while in command the whole time and after capturing a bunch of Spanish gold in the process. (He also came back with over 1/3 of his crew, which wasn’t bad by the standards of the time.) And, if we’re talking about sheer feats of navigation, it’s tough to beat James Cook.
So, I’d happily dump Columbus Day as something we celebrate. But, I doubt it will have a significant impact on the social ills associated with Columbus and continuing observation of the day named for him. On the other hand, it might help a little, and I doubt it would hurt anything.