Why We Need Christopher Columbus, Explained by Dr. Robert Royal

October 16, 2020 Updated: October 16, 2020

The social justice movement among America’s youth that is tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus is based on a warped history of him, on a story that has been rewritten and taught in America’s schools, Dr. Robert Royal, director of the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington and author of “Columbus and the Crisis of the West,” told The Epoch Times.

Students today are being educated with a very different narrative than what used to be taught.

Columbus is portrayed in today’s school textbooks as a “genocidal maniac” in the league of Hitler, who committed genocide and killed 40 million people, Royal said in an interview on The Epoch Times’ Crossroads program.

The interview with Dr. Robert Royal starts at 14:03.

When Royal saw that students were toppling statues of Columbus, he wrote two books on the explorer. But he said he doesn’t blame those youth for their actions because they have “never been taught anything other than this sort of poisonous slander.”

Royal said that his book does not defend all of Columbus’s actions.

“I think there are some things that Columbus did that we would want to, you know, you want to criticize today. But the radical demonization of Columbus is just preposterous,” he said.

The textbooks “written by a number of radical Marxist-tending historians, but primarily Howard Zinn, whose ‘A People’s History of the United States’ has been one of the key texts in schools for decades, that’s kind of gotten into the bloodstream of the schools,” Royal said.

two men protest columbus statue
Two protesters display a placard under the statue of Christopher Columbus at Columbus Circle in New York on Oct. 9, 2017, calling for the removal of the statue. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)

Dr. Mary Grabar, a resident fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization and the author of “Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History that Turned a Generation against America,” said in a conversation with Fred Eckert that Zinn used in his book quotations to make them mean the opposite of what their authors intended.

“In the very first paragraph of his book, Zinn quotes this about the Indians from Christopher Columbus’s journal: ‘They would make fine servants. . . . With fifty men we could subjugate them and make them do whatever we want,’” Grabar said, going on to explain that “Zinn purposely upends the truth by omitting pages of Columbus’s journal containing abundant evidence completely opposite the false impression Zinn calculatingly creates.”

Grabar explained: “Columbus had learned that scars visible on these Indians were caused by a hostile tribe, and he was speculating that that tribe viewed this gentler tribe as making ‘fine servants,’ not suggesting, as Zinn implies, that this was how Columbus viewed them. Columbus was a very devout Catholic who hoped to convert them to Christianity ‘more by love than by force’ and ordered his men to treat the Indians with kindness.”

Grabar wrote that according to the FBI, Howard Zinn, a professor at Boston University, was a member of the Communist Party USA in 1951.

Trouble Between Tribes

Royal explained that “Columbus was friendly with certain Taino tribes, [but] he had troubles with others.” Columbus was allied with the Tainos against the tribes that were attacking them, Royal said.

“Columbus did not bring slavery to the new world. It already existed in the Caribbean, in the very Caribbean when he arrived there,” Royal said. “He did not bring sexism to the new world.”

columbus statue
A statue of Christopher Columbus in New York City on July 9, 2020. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

The Caribs were cannibals and often kidnapped women from the Taino tribes, Royal said.

“All these things already existed in the new world precisely because indigenous peoples are human beings,” he added. Columbus came from a very different culture, so there were clashes, he said.

When the Spaniards landed on what is now Mexico, they put an end to human sacrifice and horrible cases of slavery, Royal said. One can see Columbus being harsh toward native people but he was also harsh toward the Spaniards when they were misbehaving, he said, adding that “all human beings are imperfect.”

Royal advised students to learn a fuller picture of history from well-balanced historians “who understand that there are going to be imperfections about everybody in the past.”

“Read real history, try to be truthful, try to be fair to people in the past and not use a desire to overcome say racism or the legacies of slavery. Now don’t go back and be unjust to somebody in the past trying to obtain justice now,” he said.

“Very few people know that the Spanish halted their explorations and actually began to think through their moral obligations,” Royal said. For example, some priests who returned to Spain convinced Spanish monarchs to pass laws to protect indigenous people but it was not effective due to the long distance, he added.

“Popes at that time outlawed enslaving indigenous peoples and talked about treating them well and converting them by the example of holy lives, not by coercion,” Royal said.

Cancel Culture

Columbus is a part of our heritage “however imperfect it might be” and particulars about him can be debated but what is actually happening is “a cancellation of him,” Royal said, calling the cancel culture movement “excluding one of the central features of our own culture.”

American people “fought a civil war to end slavery … had a wonderful civil rights movement to expand the ability of people of all races in this country” but what happens now is “not being more inclusive, being more liberal, being focused on expanding freedoms. It’s actually into canceling and excluding,” Royal said.

“And to me, that is the most dangerous thing of all.”

Joshua Philipp contributed to this report.