By: Basil M. Russo, ISDA President
Philadelphia officials said Monday that there are no plans to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus from Marconi Plaza.
The announcement was issued after a weekend of sometimes tense moments between protesters who defended Columbus as a symbol of Italian American culture, and counter-protesters who argued that the statue represents oppression.
Barricades remained around the statue in South Philadelphia on Monday, but there was a smaller crowd in the area as tensions continued to cool.
The meaning of Columbus to Italian Americans
The time-honored Columbus Day parades and monument construction began in the late 1800s as Italian immigrants attempted to create a sense of dignity during a period where they were subjected to lynchings, bigotry and prejudice throughout the country.
The parades enabled our communities to flourish and the statues symbolized perseverance against a wave of discrimination.
Those origins are deeply rooted in our culture, and these statues don’t carry the same undercurrent of hate that runs through Confederate monuments.
These statues represent a time that is not all too dissimilar from the racial injustice going on today. Italian Sons and Daughters of America supports meaningful social reforms for the African American community as well as Indigenous Peoples, and we want to peacefully carve a path forward that allows for free expression and informed discussion from both sides.
We must both resist violent and destructive acts and focus on the message that real change needs to happen in America, but not at the expense of the Italian American heritage.
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.