Discrimination: Christopher Columbus and Howard Zinn Essay

Submitted By dbanitskas121
Words: 1156
Pages: 5

From generation to generation, societies or groups of civilians have been discriminated by a higher authority. The question of whether or not this is ethical will be an ongoing debate for centuries. People all across the nation tend to always focus on the good and disregard the bad. According to A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn and personal letters written by Columbus himself, Christopher Columbus main motivation was gold and anything that got in his way was to be defeated. His early encounters with the Arawak Indians showed his incentive to acquire money and the cruel behavior that was given to the Arawaks. Columbus completely took advantage of these ignorant Indians by turning them into prisoners. Zinn shows that Columbus did not take the time to learn the culture of these Indians; he simply attacked them and viewed them as opponents. Zinn’s observations ring true to me because, now that I think about it, the Arawak Indians do not receive much recognition for the beginning of the Americas, and they were the first ones on the new land. The brilliant philosopher Howard Zinn deplores Christopher Columbus early journeys in search for land and gold. Although he was an Italian citizen, he was sent by the King and Queen of Spain to bring back gold and acquire new lands. Zinn’s basic complaint of Columbus is that he mistreated the newly found Arawak Indians which could have benefited our country. While examining past history showing the importance of less fortunate groups, Zinn notes that “...the limited extent that any one person, however he or she strains, can see history from the standpoint of others.” Zinn’s point is that if Columbus and his crew took the time to examine the culture of the Arawak’s, our understanding of early American history would be much clearer. They were the first humans on this new land whose way of living was diminished by the selfishness of Columbus to become wealthy. Zinn is surely right about the mistreatment of the Arawaks prevented us from understanding the lifestyle of the first Americans. When focusing on what Columbus did, Americans viewpoints will always differ. Some see him as a mass murderer who took advantage of the people he came across, and was only interested in wealth. While other’s will always have that opinion that the cruel things he did was necessary for him to become successful. Was the killing of hundreds upon hundreds of innocent Indians required for Columbus to become successful? Zinn acknowledges this by saying “he mentions the truth quickly and goes on to other things more important to him. Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arose the reader to rebel against the writer.” The essence of Zinns argument is that history does show that there was genocide of these Arawak Indians, but moves on quickly from that to another topic of discussion. Textbooks tend to bypass this and focus on other more important things, such as Columbus finding new land and gold. Zinns theory of historians focusing on the good more than the bad is extremely useful because it proves the ignorant opinion of many Americans regarding the incident between Columbus and the Arawak Indians. This is a situation that causes peoples perspective to be somewhat misleading regarding historical events. People are not familiar with the hardships some had to overcome because historians simply do not find that important. They would rather focus on the successful events that took place. Columbus was a man of much of intelligence and a great captain of the sea. However, his ways of doing things are not always agreed upon when looking back on his accomplishments and flaws during his expeditions. While explaining his first encounters with the Arawak’s, Columbus writes “Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance.” Columbus emphasizes that these