A politically-correct movement to eliminate Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day has gained momentum in some parts of the U.S., such as the cities of Los Angeles and Austin.
Many liberals want to stop honoring the Italian explorer and instead recognize victims of colonialism. Other cities getting behind the movement include San Francisco, Seattle and Denver.
However, the movement has angered many Italian Americans who say eliminating their festival of ethnic pride is also culturally insensitive. “We had a very difficult time in this country for well over a hundred years,” said Basil Russo, president of the Order of Italian Sons and Daughters of America. “Columbus Day is a day that we’ve chosen to celebrate who we are. And we’re entitled to do that just as they are entitled to celebrate who they are.”
According to Cliff Matias, cultural director of the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, and host of an upcoming Re-Thinking Columbus Day event in New York, the movement isn’t anti-Italian American. “The conversation is Columbus,” he said. “If they’re going to celebrate Columbus, we need to celebrate the fact that we survived Columbus.”
In Akron, Ohio, a September debate over whether to dump Columbus Day opened a racial rift in the city council, leading to conflict mediators coming in to soothe tensions. “The first voyage of Columbus to the Americas initiated the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It would lead to the kidnapping, deaths and slavery of tens of millions of African people,” said Councilman Russel Neal, who is black.
But Councilman Jeff Fusco, an Italian American, said, “It’s a celebration of Italian heritage. It’s very similar to other days throughout the year that we celebrate for many other cultures.”
In New York, delinquents last month covered the hands of a Christopher Columbus statue in blood-red paint and scribed the words, “Hate will not be tolerated.” And while 35,000 people are expected to march in Monday’s Columbus Day parade, activists are planning to hold counter-demonstrations.
On Sunday, three demonstrators interrupted a ceremony at the Columbus statue in Columbus Circle. The protesters were escorted away, with one being arrested.
Mayor Bill de Blasio created a committee to evaluate whether monuments to certain historical figures should be removed, initiating backlash from fellow Italian Americans who vowed to defend the Columbus statue.
The idea of Indigenous Peoples’ Day occurred before the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas.
South Dakota began celebrating Native American Day on the second Monday of October in 1990, while Berkeley, California, eliminated Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992. Many areas have adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day since then, such as in Alaska.
Salt Lake City officials have chosen to keep Columbus Day but will also acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same date.
Columbus is celebrated in Latin America, too. In Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, a massive monument to the explorer opened in 1992, called the Columbus Lighthouse. And Puerto Rico celebrates Discovery Day on Nov. 19, the day Columbus set foot on the island.
Ralph Arellanes, chairman of the activist group Hispano Round Table of New Mexico, said that as a Hispanic, he supports Columbus Day. “It was the marriage of two peoples creating a new people, in a new land,” he said.
The violent alt-left group Antifa, declared on September 21 that it would be taking down Christopher Columbus statues Monday. VIDEO
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