A descendant of mixed ethnicities

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Communications sophomore Paula Schuler.Viewpoint by Paula Christine Schuler


The flashback is clear.

In a dark classroom in 1974, an old style reel-to-reel movie projector is pushing images in front of fifth-grade faces.

The projector’s motor clicks and hums joining the sounds of gunshots, horses hitting the ground and shouts of war.

Mrs. Coleman had introduced this as the history lesson of the day. Students enjoyed films of any topic.

Christopher Colombus.  Courtesy

Christopher Colombus. Courtesy

The dark room offered unique opportunities, not to mention relief from lecture and silent homework sessions.

My fifth-grade self was glad to be in the dark because, this time, I was crying.

It seemed every year, we watched this cowboy and Indian slaughter film.

It felt just awful.

Maybe I was sensitive. Maybe I had too much connection with my roots or was too curious about who my great-greats were, what their lives were like.

My family has been in this country a long, long time.

I was a McCoy of the Hatfield and McCoy feud.

I descended from Daniel Boone’s family, prairie farmers, a woman who ran for land from the Oklahoma Territory line, Oregon trail pioneers, a Jew from Germany, a Swedish Alaskan lumberjack who married an Eskimo, and three other Native American tribes — the daughter of a Cherokee chief, a Blackfoot named Charlie and the Cree.

So, when I sat there in 1974, watching this simple little history lesson, I was really feeling it.

Tears streamed down my face.

To me, those actors were both sides of my family on the same battlefield.

I remember the ’70s with black pride messages on T-shirts and big afro hairstyles.

My cousin married a black man, and was uninvited from clan gatherings. Ethnic consideration was a hot topic between “black and white” at the time.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had given our nation an immeasurable legacy, and people were still working it out.

Columbus Day wasn’t a big deal, but that has changed. Groups stage protests over it. Controversy began spilling over 20 years ago on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to the “new world.”

The Internet describes the conflicted holiday as a celebration of western civilization as well as glamorization of atrocities against Native Americans.

Activists remind the public that Columbus never came to the United States.

This party started in the 1700s when Italians in New York City faced intense discrimination and decided to celebrate “Italian pride.” Times were pretty tough for Italians back then.

In 2012, Columbus Day makes me feel odd.

U.S. holidays celebrate freedom and triumph over tyranny. But this holiday generates images of ethnocentric disregard, enslavement and murder.

I reject arguments the day celebrates “western civilization.”

Columbus was on an economic mission for Spain to find a trade route to the East Indies.

Wealth and fame can create great motivational energy, but achievement does not always translate to greatness.

Unless someone agrees to fund an expensive campaign to educate the public on Italian pride, Columbus Day will remain divisive.

I believe it would be good to ditch the holiday.

Some fifth-graders would agree.


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