It’s become fashionable to object whenever someone says “Columbus discovered the Americas”, pointing out that other people discovered in the Americas long before him. This objection is just semantic quibbling, and rarely even addresses the real problem with how Columbus’ discovery is emphasized in history curricula.

  1. To say that ‘Columbus discovered the Americas’ does not imply that he was the first person to do so. Everyone knows that people were present in the Americas before Columbus – it is usually even included in the story of Columbus’ voyage. The pedantic objection that ‘others discovered the Americas first’ does not actually clarify or improve anybody’s understanding of history.
  2. By simply stating that Columbus did NOT discover the Americas, these objections seek to obliterate the importance of what he did (both historically and as a nautical accomplishment). If they wanted to be accurate, they would say “Columbus discovered how to sail between Europe and the Americas”. However, this performative pedantry is usually content to denigrate Columbus’ achievement rather than seeking greater specificity about it’s nature (as if that were needed).
  3. The impulse to denigrate Columbus’ achievement is generally intended to shift historical narratives away from Eurocentrism. However, simply dismissing Columbus’ achievement does not accomplish that goal. It does not expose the evil intent of Columbus’ journey, nor the evil acts he committed in the Americas – let alone the horrible long term consequences for the people of the Americas. It also brings no attention to the accomplishments of the people who already lived in the Americas, who discovered America via a fundamentally different process. It doesn’t even correct the historical record in favor of the Viking explorers – the reason we hear so little about them is because they did not spread the news of their discovery in the same way that Columbus did (e.g. not because Columbus took credit for their work).

Ultimately, it is totally acceptable to use a term like ‘discovery’ in a subjective sense – a person can discover something for themselves only or for their own society. It’s fine to have a perspective. Columbus discovered the Americas for Christian Europe. If we want to expand our own perspective to include all people, we need to do better than create fake semantic objections to Eurocentric narratives.


I can completely agree with that.

Of course you can argue semantics and say that humans were already there and the Vikings had already made their way over to a small extent, but for the purposes of discussing Western history, The voyage of Christopher Columbus marked the beginning of the colonialization of the Americas and that’s significant and important.

Without understanding that this Italian came across and discovered a continent, all of a sudden there’s just a continent there that everyone’s colonizing, where did that come from? They started doing it in the 1500s but why didn’t they start doing it in the 1300s or the 1200s?


not a debate topic, just a semantic argument

If you are talking about accuracy, I think its much better to say that he colonized the Americas.

Why are you offended to the point of an in depth post by people pushing a change in the narrative of the Americas? To me it reads as someone trying to push back on the ‘woke mob’ with a seemingly logical defense. Is that how you feel about it?

I would totally agree with your symantic argument if I didn’t know how this narrative was taught and commonly understood. Is this a topic that needs your energy, thought, and engagement?


push back on the ‘woke mob

Exactly. I’m pushing back at people who derail conversations with their performative pedantry. They aren’t helping anything – they aren’t promoting social justice. They’re just preventing meaningful conversations and making it harder for society to function. I chose this topic because it’s one of the older and widespread ‘woke’ objections and I’ve encountered it in many contexts (not just online).

More generally, there is left-wing/globalist attitude that having a perspective is illegitimate (speaking about the experience of people in a specific location and time and culture). As if real objectivity were possible. I’m saying this as a left-wing globalist.


performative pedantry

I think that’s a great way of describing this post =/

Posts must present a serious debate topic

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