Ohio’s largest city was founded in 1812 and was named after Christopher Columbus. At the time, and indeed until well into the latter half of the 20th century, the Genoan sailor was considered a conquering hero, whose “discovery” of the New World led to the eventual settlement of what is now the United States of America. Honoring him by naming cities, counties, rivers, monuments, etc. was done without a second thought.
However, in the past few decades, Columbus’ actions and attitudes, seen through the lens of modern attitudes, paints a different picture. The explorer was unambiguously racist, and indeed believed he’d been ordained by God to conquer the New World. His arrival set into a motion of series of events that would lead to the enslavement and wholesale decimation of entire Native populations.
To that end, and in the wake of the George Floyd protests, renewed attention has been put on the subject of honoring Columbus. In some places, such as St. Louis, statues have been moved to prevent vandalism, with a view toward putting them in museums where they can be understood in their historical context.
In Ohio, residents are asking that the city of roughly 900,000 people ditch the name that honors the sailor.
According to an online petition, the city’s name has to go.
“Columbus is an amazing city, but one whose name is tarnished by the very name itself. Its namesake, Christopher Columbus, is in The Bad Place because of all his raping, slave trading, and genocide. That’s not exactly a proud legacy,” the petition reads.
Instead, the petition suggests renaming the city “Flavortown,” in honor of the man who coined the phrase: Guy Fieri, who was born Guy Ramsay Ferry in 1968.
Tyler Woodbridge, who started the petition, said that the town’s native son, who actually grew up in California, has officiated over 100 LGBTQ weddings and has helped raise more than $20 million to provide money for restaurant workers furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That kind of optimism and charitable work embodies more of what Columbus, Ohio, is about rather than the tarnished legacy of Christopher Columbus,” Woodbridge said.
Online petitions, it bears noting, carry exactly zero legal weight, and no governing authority is required to review them, let alone act on them.
Nevertheless, as of this writing, over 26,000 people have signed the petition.