So Columbus Day, Andrew Cuomo, And Chris Pratt's Mario Walk Into A Bar ...
It is the year 2021 and we are still doing Columbus Day. Sort of. It's still technically, federally, Columbus Day — although unlike other federal holidays that fall on the Somethingth Monday of Whateveruary, most people are not getting a three day weekend, because it's an embarrassing holiday and no one wants to look as though they are celebrating it.
Between Andrew Cuomo's "I sexually harass people because I am Italian and it is our culture!" and the announcement that Chris Pratt will be doing the voice of Mario in an upcoming Nintendo movie, our image as a people has been through enough this year that we shouldn't be having to deal with the goddamned Knights of Columbus and Sons of Italy or whatever whining about the fact that no one else wants to celebrate our heritage with a holiday celebrating a genocidal maniac. Alas, it seems we will not be getting a reprieve.
But this time there's a twist! Now they are trying to make Columbus Day woke, by pushing the narrative that Italians got Columbus Day as a way of apologizing for the mass lynching of 11 Sicilian immigrants in New Orleans in 1891. COPOMIAO, which is not a difficult-to-pronounce Italian word but an acronym for the Conference Of Presidents Of Major Italian-American Organizations, even went so far as to take out full page ads about it in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times, the organization notes bitterly on their website, refused to run one (good for them!).
Columbus statues aren't rooted in racism they are rooted in antiracism.
Few know that 11 Italians were lynched in New Orleans in 1891 while thousands cheered on what would be the largest mass lynching in US history. To fight oppression, Italian Americans promoted Columbus Day. Claims that the holiday and statue symbolize racism are patently false.
This is bullshit on many levels. First of all, it was xenophobia, not racism, because Italian people are white. We are white now and we were white in 1891. One big clue that we were not truly considered non-white back then, despite xenophobia and slurs and what have you, is that the families of those lynching victims actually got reparations. They got $25,000 each in 1892, the year after it happened — the inflation calculator doesn't go back to 1891, so we can't say exactly what that would be today, but $25,000 in 1913 would be valued at about $690,000 today. You know who hasn't gotten reparations?
It is true that Italians at the time pushed for Columbus Day as a way to combat anti-Italian sentiment and in hopes of making people think of them as Americans. It is totally understandable that they would want to do that. None of us are strangers to how horrible Americans can be to immigrants. I would, however, like to imagine that if those people knew what we know now about Columbus, they might have gone a different direction. Just because a mistake was made in the past doesn't mean we have to go on making it forever.
Columbus wasn't a slaver or a killer — he was a dreamer
Columbus never owned a slave, he didn't start the slave trade and he never ordered the mass killing of indigenous peoples Columbus's journey sparked 500 years of immigration, attracting people from throughout the world seeking a better life for their families. Columbus was the first dreamer.
Oh, come the fuck on. We have the man's journals. We have other contemporary historical documents. These things are not in question.
Let's chat a new course together celebrating all Americans!
Let's rebuild Columbus's legacy, construct new monuments that honor all those who are part of the American dream, from indigenous people to the newest arrivals and establish intercultural public spaces that deep in and widen the discussion of our nations proud multi-cultural heritage.
No, just no. We're not doing Woke Columbus. It's not going to happen. There's not going to be any "rebuilding" of Columbus's legacy, because no one is interested in pretending he wasn't a monster anymore. (He really, really was.) It is just going to be the same thing every year, forever and ever, like Groundhog Day if Punxatawny Phil had had thousands of people kidnapped and sent to Spain to be slaves, or had sold young girls into sexual slavery or ordered a bunch of people in the Dominican Republic be murdered and their dismembered bodies paraded through town for no reason other than they didn't want to submit to Spanish rule and become slaves. Why would anyone choose to keep doing this? It's honestly miserable.
I don't think there's anything wrong with having a day to celebrate Italian-American culture. I don't think anyone would be mad at having a day off where we all just eat a lot of delicious food and listen to Louis Prima and ride around in gondolas or whatever. It's kind of unfortunate that instead of getting to have something nice, we have this shit, because a bunch of cafones just can't give up Columbus.
Anyway — Happy Indigenous People's Day!
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse