The NYC Department of Education now celebrates “Columbus Day” as Italian Heritage Day / Indigenous Peoples Day. The US national holiday is still called “Columbus Day.” It will take an act of Congress to change it. The same is true in New York State.
The US celebration was founded to stop the lynching of Italian Americans by white supremacist Confederate Southerners.
After the US Civil War (1860-1865), Italians who migrated to the United States came from Southern Italy. It’s only 100 miles from Africa so Italians were comfortable with mixing. They took work that had formerly been done by the African Diaspora, lived in and married into African communities. They became targets by association.
White Supremacists Put the English Diaspora Against Everyone
The systemic racism of the day began turning against Italian Americans. The racism of the time was so violent that it is impossible for us today to fully comprehend it. Lynchings, murders, rapes, maimings, burnings – you cannot process the inhumanity – even against women and children for no reason at all. People don’t want to talk about it, but it is our American history.
The situation begs the question that if it was so bad for Italian Americans, what was it like for African and Indigenous Americans? It was far worse and is the root cause of the division in our country today.
The Italian migrants didn’t have the White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) form of racism which still devils us. In that point of view, if you are not WASP English, you are a Black soulless devil worshiper who can be abused worse than animals.
It’s the English against everyone including Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Spanish and French. You thought you were accepted in America because you are European? Maybe, but you don’t understand the Colonial English mindset in which the English were better than everybody with the god-given right to take whatever they want. You may see yourself as a White European, but the English Diaspora still sees you as a Black, soulless devil worshiper. It’s pure nonsense, but English racism is the “mother” of American racism.
Systemic racism is a bad national strategy. Look what it did for Great Britain. Without the wealth provided by human slaving, Great Britain has become the Great Bootlicker. [Don’t give me a hard time, I’m half British.]
There was an international incident in which the USA even paid reparations to Italy for the lynching of Italian Americans. That’s how “Columbus Day” started. Back then, people of color had no voice in American society and the scholarship about the evil of Columbus himself was not general knowledge. We didn’t know.
Columbus Unleashed a Terrible Genocide & The Atlantic Slave Trade
Most Latin Americans reject Columbus because he unleashed a multi-dimensional Indigenous genocide that began with an epidemic with a 95% death rate. The COVID death rate is between 1-3%, so think about that, and think about it happening in the space of just a few years. Can you imagine the shock of being the 1 in 20 who survived?
The first thing the Spanish did was work Indigenous Peoples to death in slave labor camps. We are taught that Indigenous Peoples just gave up and died, but actually they were worked to death in slave labor camps.
When there were no Indigenous workers left, the Europeans began enslaving Africans and working them to death too.
Christopher Columbus Was an Evil Man
It turns out that Christopher Columbus was himself an evil man. His own Spanish sponsors called him back to Spain, jailed him and stripped him of his power.
He had brought such riches to Spain that they eventually let him go, but never let him have power again. That was his own sponsors.
Even the “Discovery” Was Based on a Lie
Columbus Day commemorates the day around October 12, 1492 when the expedition of Christopher Columbus sighted land in what is now the Bahamas and the Americas.
But even that pivotal moment was based on a lie. A lookout sighted land first. But to claim a reward, Columbus lied and said he saw land first, but didn’t report it. True to form, he took what wasn’t his.
That’s typical of the Colonial Period. Colonial triumphs were based on lies and betrayal.
America’s Italian community can choose its own icons, but why would anyone want to be represented by such a flawed character who stands for unspeakable crimes against humanity? We can do better.