Save Columbus Day at Drexel University
Save Columbus Day at Drexel University
Following the historic vote at the Italian Parliament and in the city of Genoa, and all of the hard work conducted by the Italian American communities all around the US, the Italian Pride student organization asks Drexel University to reconsider their decision of removing Columbus Day and to work with the Italian community at Drexel to establish an inclusive environment to celebrate our heritage as well.
The time-honored Columbus Day celebrations were launched in the late 1800s as Italian immigrants attempted to create a sense of self-esteem and dignity during a period where they were subjected to lynching, bigotry and discrimination throughout the U.S. The establishment of Columbus Day as a national holiday was due to the anti-Italian and anti-immigrant discrimination plague happening in the US. For a sizeable portion of the Italian American community, Christopher Columbus, as well Columbus Day, represents an opportunity to celebrate our collective contributions to the United States and to commemorate our ancestors who fought discrimination and prejudices to give us a better future.
Columbus’s journey sparked 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. In 2017, Pope Francis, while speaking to the youth of Genoa, Columbus’ birthplace, pointed to Columbus as an example of courage and conviction.
The Italian American community has always supported the designation of an Indigenous Peoples Day as it is most rightly and most justly deserved. However, it’s patently unjust that our heritage be erased to appease another group. Native Americans, like Italian Americans, should have every right to celebrate and educate others about their history and culture. However, we believe that to repeal Columbus Day as a holiday (which is celebrated by over 20 million Italian Americans) only to replace it by another holiday celebrated by another ethnic group, would be culturally insensitive. We would like to notice there are already two recognized Indigenous People’s Day, one on August 9th and one the day after Thanksgiving, the month of November is National Native American Heritage Month, and other states celebrate a third Indigenous People’s Day on the fourth Friday in September or in October separately from Columbus Day. We don’t see any reasons to replace the only one day intended to celebrate the Italian legacy to celebrate a different culture.
Through the motion passes in the Italian Parliament and in the city of Genoa, the governmental and business leaders in Italy have sent a clear message that the unfair and lawless treatment of Italian American history will not be tolerated. Recently in the U.S episodes of intolerance towards the figure of Christopher Columbus have occurred, with gestures aimed at destroying or smearing the statues that remember him. In Virginia (USA), the local statue of Christopher Columbus was torn down, set on fire and then thrown into the lake, while in Little Italy in Baltimore the statue of the navigator was torn down and then thrown into the river and an 80-year-old resident has been thrown down, stepped on, and her ankle twisted when approached the statue. Many other cities met similar events. It is clear that the cancellation of Columbus Day and the attacks on the statues of Columbus represent not only an act of profound historical ignorance, but also an affront to the Italian community living in the United States who were deeply wounded by these senseless acts. It is worth remembering that Christopher Columbus set out to discover a new trade route with the East, a circumstance that makes him not a conqueror, but an explorer. Columbus is a founding part of American history and today represents the cultural heritage of the Italians in America, who see Columbus Day as a celebration of Italian pride and success in America. Every year the US President, as required by the resolution passed by Congress on April 30, 1934 and amended by the law of June 28, 1968, proclaims the second Monday in October of each year as "Columbus Day".
Columbus is a symbol of the relationship between Italy and the United States and a removal of this figure from the historical memory of the American people certainly does not meet the aims of good cooperation and the feelings of strong friendship that the two countries have for each other. It is important to offer a public space to every ethnic contribution, so that the memory of the roots of a country is not dispersed and forgotten. Every ethnic contribution is vital, since it has made possible the achievement of American democracy, as we know it today; in this sense, the idea of establishing a day of celebration for indigenous and Native Americans as well, just as St. Patrick's Day is celebrated, should be welcomed, without, however, taking the place of the important celebration of Columbus Day.
Cancelling history is wrong. It is precisely from the examples of history that we can build a better world, an individual without history does not exist. It is important to analyze history not according to our tastes or according to our ideologies, but according to the criteria of a rigorous scientific research, because otherwise we would fall into cultural relativism where everyone tell their opinions. The different peoples, the different histories, the different identities are values to be respected and defended and not to be canceled. Italy and the Italians ask not to be discriminated against through the expulsion of their culture and history from the life of the USA, as no culture should be criminalized, because then there would be reasons to criminalize them all. Eliminating Columbus Day violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution as well as constitutes a depravation of protected civil liberties.
“[…] but guided by science and expertise, that time will come. And when it does, we'll celebrate together.” These were the words of President Fry at the Convocation ceremony 2020 to start the academic year. There are many experts who promote an objective and truthful narrative of Columbus, such as Carol Delaney - ex-assistant director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard, visiting professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University, and now an emerita professor at Stanford University and a research scholar at Brown University – who wrote Columbus and The Quest for Jerusalem analyzing the real motive for undertaking his voyage, Robert Royal - president of the Faith & Reason Institute based in Washington, D.C. and he has taught at Brown University, Rhode Island College, and The Catholic University of America – who wrote Columbus and the Crisis of the West distinguishing him as the greatest explorer of his age whose courage and vision extended Christian Europe and inspired the American spirit, Mary Grabar - resident fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization in Clinton, New York – who wrote Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America analyzing the lies against Christopher Columbus and taught in school today, Rafael Ortiz – a Taino descendant – who wrote three books and working on a fourth one to fact-check the myths surrounding the navigator, and many other experts. Also, there are scientific research, especially published by the Florida Museum of Natural History and Harvard University, boosting credibility of Columbus’ intentions and voyages. Whose science and expertise have guided Drexel into removing Columbus Day is not clear. We will more than happy to celebrate with you all once science and expertise have been listened.
The Italian Pride student organization ask the following to the Drexel administration:
· To reconsider their decision to remove Columbus Day into Drexel academic calendar and to listen to the Italian community. It is fundamental that the Italian community has an opportunity to get their voices heard and for Drexel to hear their stories.
· To acknowledge the history of discrimination and lynching against the Italian community in America. The removal of Columbus Day undermines the relationship between the Drexel community and the Italian community. It is important to understand every background for an inclusive and diverse community.
· To get answers for the removal of Columbus Day. The Drexel administration took a strong position against the Italian community and all the protests going on to set an accurate and objective narrative on Columbus. The Italian community deserves to hear from the Drexel administration why our Day is not anymore in the academic calendar.
We would like to thank the organizations of Italians in America who have fought to defend our cultural heritage, such as Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, Columbus Heritage Foundation, Columbus Citizens Foundation, UNICO, National Columbus Education Foundation, The Order of Sons and Daughters of Italy, The Italian Sons and Daughters of America, the National Italian American Foundation, the Italian American One Voice Coalition, Association of Italian American Educators, Filitalia, Hands off Christopher Columbus and many other organizations, as well as singles, who went out of their way to defend Columbus Day and the Columbus statues from being removed.