The recognition of the holiday that celebrates Christopher Columbus has become increasingly controversial over the last couple decades with many pointing to the atrocities suffered by indigenous North American people after Columbus’ discovery of the New World. One teacher in Detroit made her thoughts about Columbus Day clear on Monday by wearing a shirt to school that read, “Columbus was a murderer.” The fashion choice quickly sparked controversy.
Emma Howland-Bolton, a fifth grade teacher at Clipper Multicultural Magnet Honors Academy in the Detroit Public Schools Community District, says she “wanted to wear this shirt to spark discussion.” But a school administrator asked her to take the shirt off, and she became concerned she would be punished for it.
“I was informed that my shirt was my opinion, and I countered with, it is a fact,” Howland-Bolton said. In the end, she was not reprimanded for wearing the shirt. But social media certainly had plenty of opinions about it.
A teacher says she wore this shirt to school and found herself at the center of a controversy. Is this shirt a statement of fact or opinion? #ColumbusDay The story on @wxyzdetroit at 6. pic.twitter.com/L5sAJb1dq7— Kim Russell WXYZ (@kimrussell7) October 14, 2019
“Totally inappropriate to wear to work/school. There are better ways to cover the historical facts,” one person wrote on Twitter.
Someone replied to that by writing, “Such as... in a classroom? By a teacher? Which she is? Try again.”
There was plenty of support for Howland-Bolton, as well.
“This is my brand! Sending love and support to the teacher. We need more like you!,” one person commented.
“Columbus was stripped of his governorship because he was over the top cruel even to his own men, within the standards of the time he lived in,” a second user said. “He didn't sail into the unknown. He felt confident where he was going, and he was wrong. Read history, not mythology.”
Others pointed out what they perceived to be a double standard at play.
“It doesn't matter if it's a fact/statement/opinion...if a student wore that shirt it would raise all kinds of hell,” the user wrote. “The principal would have the student in their office, the parents would be getting a phone call [and] most likely the student would be getting some sort of discipline.” Another echoed that, writing, “What would of happened if a kid wore the shirt?”
Many municipalities have made the move to celebrating Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, although plenty of school systems, governments and businesses still recognize the original holiday.