The explorer and his antecedents: Columbus Day is about Italian-Americans; celebrate their achievements – New York Daily News

File under “silly” the movement to force the rebranding of the day late-19th-century Italian-Americans christened to celebrate their heritage. They chose as their hero Cristoforo Colombo, the Italian explorer who, sailing for the Spanish crown, on Oct. 12, 1492, made landfall in what was then called the New World. Whatever one thinks of Columbus’ character — you won’t find a reflexive defense of him in this column — the man and his continent-connecting achievement unmistakably shaped world history.
It would be blind to that history to deem the name so toxic it cannot hold a holiday. If unworthy of a holiday, it’s surely unworthy of a great university. And of the name of the district where the U.S. Capitol sits. And so on.
More important, however, Columbus Day was never designed to suppress discussion of the oppression of indigenous peoples, an undeniable and shameful fact of our past that historians and all of us should openly acknowledge and discuss. Rather, the point of uplifting a man Italian immigrants themselves chose as a hero was to ensconce the place of that community in our national fabric.
Italian immigrants disembark at Ellis Island in 1900. (Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
New York, home to more Americans of Italian descent than anywhere else, would be unimaginable without this community. Without their labor, the subway could never have been built. Without their leadership, the city would never have been led through its most difficult times. Without their artistry, our lives would have been impoverished. Without their daily accomplishments in fields mundane and glamorous and in between, this most dynamic and prosperous metropolis would be a shadow of itself.
With our nation torn over the fate of a wave of people from south of our border seeking asylum — people smeared by our last president and his party as unwanted invaders — we salute a population of millions from southern Italy who, just a century ago, were seen as lesser, other, unwelcome, suspect, unpatriotic, and even culturally and genetically incapable of being a full-fledged part of the American experiment.
Of course they are not. Of course no group is. That is our Columbus Day.
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News
Copyright © 2022, New York Daily News


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