By: Basil M. Russo, ISDA President
A Christopher Columbus statue was beheaded in Boston, Mass., a monument was lit on fire and thrown in a lake in Richmond, Va., a statue was toppled at the Minnesota Capitol building, and several other sites have been vandalized and targeted.
— WBZ | CBS Boston News (@wbz) June 10, 2020
BREAKING: A statue of Christopher Columbus in Byrd Park has been removed by protesters and dragged into the lake. This is a developing story. pic.twitter.com/yFjiUdPTMk
— WTVR CBS 6 Richmond (@CBS6) June 10, 2020
Meanwhile, a growing petition demands that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio dismantle Columbus Circle.
Last October, statues were defaced in Baltimore, Providence and San Francisco, and now it’s time to say enough.
The Italian American community demands that this trend of hate crimes comes to an end, so we can debate the issue on its merits and not through lawless mob rule.
The past three weeks have unleashed a watershed moment in our history, as police brutality and calls for racial justice echo through our cities, neighborhoods, hearts and minds.
Italian Sons and Daughters of America fully supports social change and political initiatives that work to achieve balanced peace among all American people, but the work of bad actors is slowing the progress that has been made by peaceful protesters.
These are acts that are distorting the narrative of why Columbus statues were built across the U.S., as misinformed individuals argue that the underlying hate in Confederate monuments also runs through Columbus statues.
It couldn’t be further from the truth.
A tradition of pride and unity
Columbus Day has become synonymous with Italian Heritage Day, the time when we remember the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents, and the contributions Italian Americans have made in the U.S.
The time-honored Columbus Day parades actually began in the late 1800s as Italian immigrants attempted to create a sense of self-esteem and dignity during a period where they were subjected to lynchings, bigotry and prejudice throughout the country.
A movement forward
Columbus’s journey launched 500 years of immigration to America, attracting peoples from throughout the world seeking a better life for their families — this is the spirit we champion and are fighting to preserve, and this is what the Columbus statues stand for.
The Italian-American community has always supported the designation of an Indigenous Peoples Day as it is most rightly and most justly deserved. We respectfully suggest the day after Thanksgiving, or August 9th (the day the United Nations has designated as Indigenous Peoples Day throughout the world) to be considered as alternate options.
What we don’t support is the political agenda or criminal acts of those who want to rewrite history, and in the process, diminish our traditions by targeting the 15th century explorer.
ISDA Vice President John M. Viola wrote this op-ed in The New York Times, which reads in part:
“…Respect for historical monuments should not signify blind acceptance of the values and judgments of past societies; rather, they should be instructive tools in our quest to understand our history and use it to better meet the challenges of the present. If we allow uncontrolled tearing down of memorials or unilateral reinterpretation of American history, then we will be damaging our democracy by limiting vigorous debate on our history, with all its beauty and blemishes. In his first inaugural address at the onset of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln called on Americans to allow a national dialogue led by the “better angels of our nature.” I think his counsel remains as wise and essential today as it was then…”
Watch below as we explore the strong emotional connection that has evolved over time between Columbus and the celebration of our Italian American heritage:
Columbus 2020: The holiday's namesake navigator launched 500 years of immigration to America, attracting peoples from throughout the world seeking a better life for their families—this is the spirit we champion and are fighting to preserve in the New Year and beyond. Join us as we explore Columbus's lasting impact on our culture, and subscribe to our new video series, "Greetings From Italian America," here: https://bit.ly/2QyyFVPColumbus Citizens Foundation The Italian American Podcast
Posted by Italian Sons and Daughters of America on Monday, December 30, 2019