Why is the name Indians racist?
It was given to an entire continent of people by a man believing in the superiority of his race and his religion. It also happens that he was lost, seriously lost.
The origin of the name Indians for the indigenous populations of the Americas tracks back to Christopher Columbus. When he arrived in the Caribbean he believed he had found islands off the coast of China in what was then known as the Indies. Columbus named the people he found Indians. He died believing he had found the route to China from Europe. When Columbus arrived his mission was to convert the native people to Christianity, to send some of them back to Europe to study and to be studied, to ultimately conquer them and to exploit their natural resources.
Before his first voyage of Columbus had obtained a contract with the king and queen of Spain to receive 10% of all profits from his voyage or voyages. On the return to Spain he captured a few natives and took them back with his crew. On his second voyage Columbus sent a larger group of natives back to Europe to be enslaved. Many died from diseases they contracted in Europe for which they had no immunity.
During the time Columbus was on his third voyage in the Americas his inability to adequately govern the colony he had established was recognized in Spain. Queen Isabella refused to accept the natives as slaves, returning many to their homes on future voyages. Additionally a new governor, Francisco de Bobadilla, was sent to the Americas to replace Columbus and his brothers in 1500. The new governor, with 500 armed men under his command, had more authority than Columbus. To remove a combative Columbus and his brothers he placed Columbus in chains aboard one of Columbus’ own vessels for the return to Spain of the 3rd voyage.
In 1502 Columbus began his fourth and final voyage. Before he would again see Spain he would be shipwrecked on a Caribbean island for over a year, endure a mutiny on the island, be unwelcome in the colony of Hispaniola which he had originally founded, encounter Mayan traders on a river but neglect to explore their lands or culture and find upon his delayed return to Spain that his single major benefactor, Queen Isabella, was dying. Columbus himself died less than two years later. At his death he was still insisting he had found the route to China and the Indies. He firmly believed that with the wealth in gold and silver soon to be found there Spain would convert the entire world to Christianity which would then soon bring the end of the world.
This is the real Columbus, the man who named an entire continent’s people the name of the wrong continent. He did shape history. He did bring change. It is time to bring change again. Perpetuating his racist wrong essentially because this history is not widely known is itself wrong. It is time to banish the name Indians from the MLB because it truly is a racist name.