Today is Columbus Day. I never gave the day much thought really, except it's a Federal Holiday and in the past few years it's been a paid holiday I get to take. A few years ago a friend of mine posted to Facebook about Christopher Columbus, in doing so she enlightened me about what a shit the guy was.
I was in my forties by the time I figured out what a giant douchebag Christopher Columbus was. Seems like a lot of people are just figuring it out because now, all of a sudden, people are defacing statues of him. There's a lot of questioning of patriarchy in 2017. To me, I have to say, Columbus symbolized America, the inception of this place I call home, more than he symbolized patriarchy. And, let's admit that pretty much every European explorer in the 1700s was a prostitute of patriarchal colonialism. So why can't we be realists about the past? Why can't we just celebrate America and how Italians have made America great? With food?
My mother was Italian American. Her parents had emigrated with her family en mass and she was born here in the US, in West Virginia. Italian was her first language. The entire family was poor. They labored in coal mines. They were openly discriminated against by other "white" people all around them. I know this because my mother told me about it.
In the US my mom had the opportunity to succeed in a way that she would never have been able to in Italy. She was the first college educated person in her family, including men. She went on to get a dual masters degree. She worked hard, had a good career and a nice home. When I came along in the 70s I didn't even know what discrimination was. I had to learn what it was. Both my parents said it was a very bad thing, because first it's OK to discriminate against one type of person, and the next thing it's OK to discriminate against you because you're Italian. I still hold this lesson in my heart. Italian Americans have some terrible stereotypes. While I enjoyed The Sopranos immensely I want to be associated with that stereotype as much as my African American friends want to be associated with The Wire.
Some people have called for a renaming of Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day. Sigh. Great. Everyone else gets their own day except us. If every Irishy person in the world can get religiously drunk on March 17th, then why is it so hard to celebrate Columbus day with Chianti and some pizza? I think most Italian Americans want people to see the positive. We can all complain about how much of a shit Chris Columbus was while appreciating the food, the fashion and culture of Italy, which has contributed a lot to the United States. And for the record, we should have an all new holiday for indigenous people. They deserve more than a recycled day.