By Andre’ DiMino
Why is Columbus so important to you?
That’s a question I get from many, especially this time of year. Well, the answer starts in Brooklyn. My parents legally immigrated to America from Sicily, settling in Brooklyn. Then I was born. At that time, practically everyone in our part of Bensonhurst was from Sicily, so not much English was spoken — I only spoke Sicilian.
That was fine until I was 6, and we moved to a small town in New Jersey with not many Italian Americans — culture shock! Wanting to fully assimilate, my parents told me not to speak Italian out of the house, which I thought meant something was wrong with being Italian. I later realized it was only their desire for us to fit in and be proud Americans. My father always said, “This is the greatest country in the world,” instilling patriotism in me. But, because my Italian heritage was repressed as a child, I strongly reconnected with it when I was older. That brings us back to Christopher Columbus.
Italian Americans’ ancestors fled horrible treatment and abject poverty in their homeland. As immigrants to America in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they suffered racism, discrimination, and marginalization. In 1891, 11 innocent Italian Americans were lynched in the largest lynching in US history. Other lynchings and violent acts proliferated. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison declared the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival to be celebrated as Columbus Day to counter the negative treatment of Italian Americans.
Columbus Day statues and commemorations enable us to celebrate our great heritage. For generations, he has symbolized our ancestors’ perseverance in the face of mass discrimination.
Many spew untruths about Columbus promulgated by the self-declared anarchist and Marxist, Howard Zinn. He launched his attack on our country by first shaking the foundations of Western culture by purposely distorting facts about Columbus and other historical figures. His books continue to indoctrinate in our schools and contribute to cancel culture. His fabrications about Columbus have been roundly disputed and debunked using valid, primary historic sources.
Attacking Columbus is an attack on Italian Americans, Christianity, Western Culture, and America. As a symbol of pride and atonement to Italian Americans, Columbus should be defended as a well-deserved ‘thanks’ for the contributions of Italian Americans to America as well as for his incredible accomplishment of uniting the continents and changing the world. Don’t allow cancel culture to denigrate our great country with these falsehoods. I will continue defending my Italian heritage, my faith, and our great country.
Andre’ DiMino is President of the Italian American One Voice Coalition, Inc. — iaovc.org