The 50-foot bronze and granite Christopher Columbus statue in Pittsburgh’s Oakland district, which was recently vandalized, was built by sculptor Frank Vittor in 1958. (Photo credit: Piotrus)
By: Basil M. Russo, ISDA President
We’re roiled by a national protest on inequality, we’re dogged by a disease that is surging back and forcing millions to unemployment rolls, and we’re watching in disbelief as protesters splinter away from a good cause to go off and topple Christopher Columbus statues.
You can support the statue destruction and vandalism, or you can respect the law, but you can’t do both without acknowledging the hypocrisy that these people are setting a feverishly misguided precedent.
It’s so pervasive that city leaders across America are removing Columbus monuments to prevent the chaotic effects of a mob mentality from descending on their parks and squares.
Of course it’s easier to knock things down and set them on fire, but we learned from democracy’s first spark that we must maintain our civility, and this is true even when society fails us.
The key lesson the peaceful social reform movement has taught us so far is that leveraging the branches of government to plead your case is the real way to achieve change.
And in those halls and chambers is where you’ll be met head on by activists from the Italian American community, who hold a widely accepted view that the Columbus statues represent unity and overcoming crushing discrimination.
It would be helpful if agitated protesters put down their saws and lighter fluid, and researched the fact that Columbus statues were specifically built to symbolize anti-racism during a time in the late 19th century where Italian immigrants were clubbed and shot to death in the streets of New Orleans and pushed to the fringes of society.
Columbus linked the human race back together after it had been separated for roughly 10,000 years, and we took the spirit of that world-changing discovery to come together and push back against a wave of brutal violence and prejudice.
Columbus Day parades and statues were a rallying cry that rose up at the turn of the 1900s, and sparked the creation of the Italian American culture.
It took Italian Americans decades, larger-than-life athletes, a record turnout of soldiers fighting in WWII, and Christopher Columbus, to be embraced by the nation at large.
We want the same changes to happen today with minority groups, but not at the expense of our heritage. It’s not just cement and bronze in these Columbus statues, it’s sweat, blood, tears—and hope, for a tomorrow that rises above the turmoil and breaks into new frontiers.
And we’ll be damned if we’re going to let a group of misinformed individuals rewrite our history and erase that spirit from a country that we literally helped build from the ground up.
Stand up for what’s right and join us as we take on this critical initiative to restore lawful order and safeguard our heritage.