Indigenous peoples day and how the Italians became white.

columbus
My cartoon from 2012.

The good news is that Columbus Day will not be celebrated this year in at least six states and 130 cities and towns in the U.S.

It is now being replaced with the recognition of the history of indigenous people and, to a lesser degree, the horrors and brutality of the European invasion of the Americas.

There will be an old fashion Columbus Day parade down Chicago’s State Street this morning.

Too bad.

columbus-day
The first Indigenous People’s Day parade was in Berkeley, California almost 30 years ago.

Chicago and Illinois should follow the lead of the other states and cities and dump Columbus Day.

If Alabama can celebrate today as Native American Day, Illinois should be able to manage it.

Although Alabama splits it in two and also celebrates today as Columbus Day.

Two Alabamas.

Did you know that the Confederacy had three capital cities at varying points: Montgomery, Alabama; Richmond, Virginia; and Danville, Virginia. But thanks to the election of Steven Reed on Tuesday in Montgomery, all three cities now have black mayors.

The power of the Black vote.

The issue of confusing Columbus Day with the history of Italian immigrants was addressed yesterday in the New York Times.

They published an important piece by Brent Staples called How Italians Became “White”

Italians who had come to the country as “free white persons” were often marked as black because they accepted “black” jobs in the Louisiana sugar fields or because they chose to live among African-Americans. This left them vulnerable to marauding mobs like the ones that hanged, shot, dismembered or burned alive thousands of black men, women and children across the South.

The federal holiday honoring the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus — celebrated on Monday — was central to the process through which Italian-Americans were fully ratified as white during the 20th century. The rationale for the holiday was steeped in myth, and allowed Italian-Americans to write a laudatory portrait of themselves into the civic record.

So, we have the irony of a holiday seen by some as celebrating Italians that conceals more than it reveals.

The sons and daughters of Italian immigrants had much more in common with the sons and daughters of African American slaves than they do with those like Columbus who came to murder and enslave the indigenous people who already lived here.

 

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