I'm Italian American But Was Wavering on 'Columbus' I Needed To Get The Facts
Release Date: 10/11/2023
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Hearing Negative Information About Someone You Thought Was Cool Is Always a Bummer.
Changes how you feel about them for sure.
Which is why I needed to talk about Christopher Columbus.
I've always celebrated my Italian American Heritage on Columbus Day. That one day a year, to have fun with and honor all my fellow Italian Americans here in the U.S. and honor all the Italian Immigrants who came over and worked so hard with their hands to help build this country.
I'm aware Italian immigrants were persecuted badly, but I'm not sure everybody knows just how bad. Bad.
Growing up people took the liberty of making fun of my being 'Italian" more times than I can count. And there were many oportunities closed off to me along the way, because of my ethicity that I just came to accept.
But I am proud of my heritage, as we all should be proud of our heritage, and I loved the whole big Italian family thing growing up and all the big Italian food. Italians by the way think food is love, so there was hummungous love which led to bigger sized clothes, but oh well.
Anyway recently I felt needed a better education about Christopher Columbus. I was thinking if he was that bad a guy, I want nothing to do with him. I was also thinking OK, maybe we just change the name of Columbus Day to 'Italian Heritage Day' and not 'Indigenous Peoples Day' because even though I love Indigenous people and didnt want to hurt their feelings, I found out Indigenous People already have a day, so I figured ... we could just work it out and call it a day.
Not that simple.
I decided I'd better educate myself more on all fronts. Good thing I did!
I had a fabulous conversation with Andre D'Amino, a successful business leader from N.J. and President of The Italian American One Voice Coalition (IAOVC), the largest independent Italian American anti-bias educational organization.
He's not in favor of changing 'Columbus Day' to anything else and he shared some FACTS why we shoudn't. He was clear many of the negative things people have heard recently about Christopher Columbus are not true.
He said one of the the most important reasons we should keep Columbus Day as is, is because Columbus was the one who opened up the connection between the western world and this part of the world, uniting it all together. That was big.
Enjoy this podcast of our interesting Live conversaton on 'The Debbie Nigro Show'. I think you'll enjoy learning some things I learned.
If you'd rather listen to the transcript it is below.
And now, back to the Debbie Nigro Show!
Rock and roll back to the Debbie Nigro show Hi guys, how are you doing today? Happy Columbus Day… Although I used to be happier on Columbus Day before all the conversation about… like Okay, this wasn't the best guy in the world… And maybe we should topple over statues of him… But we're still gonna have a parade. I'm a proud Italian American girl, daughter, family girl. Italians have always been about family. And I’m just really am confused. So I want to understand more. And there's this amazing organization called the Italian American One Voice Coalition, the only national organization solely dedicated to defending Italian-American heritage and culture through education. And there's a terrific guy who is their president who's come from a unique family of inventors, Italian American inventors, and just very interesting. Andre D'Amino is joining me. Hey, Andre, how are you?
Hi, Debbie. Good to be with you today.
You know, I was wavering on whether I wanted to get into a discussion about Columbus on my radio show because I don't do politics, I don't do controversy, but I am wanting to understand more about what's going on. And I know this is what you do all day long in terms of defending the heritage and I'm such a proud Italian American girl, but when did this start going wrong about Columbus? Can you just tell me that? When was he
no longer cool?
Well yeah, in fact I can tell you there was a very big uh... real start to this was when as a guy by the name of Howard is in who's a self-declared marxist an anarchist they wanted to destroy America and he did it by fabricating facts about our history and his history book which believe it or not is still being used in schools starts with Columbus where he made up false accusations and incorrect information and editor all kinds of things and he's been totally debunked by scholars and primary sources. But you know you want to attack America and you know he started with Columbus and now of course they're going after Jefferson Washington and others, but it did all start with Columbus amendment and unfortunately, it's been indoctrinated now in the past generation, because that book came out in nineteen early nineteen eighties and uh...
there's even a Howards in the kit education project which continues the work of Howards and be against our country.
So listen, Columbus Day in Columbus is an important, iconic symbol to Italian-Americans, which has a great history, not only for Italian-Americans, but actually the world, because of what he accomplished by uniting the continents and bringing the world together. So, I do really wish you a happy Columbus Day. That's what today is.
I'm like, well, he did it for Spain. Didn't Spain say, okay, go here, here's the money and go. And I'm joking to myself driving up, of course they'd ask an Italian to get it done. But yeah, so he didn't really come to the United States. You're a fact guy. You're here to give us facts today, right? He went, where did he go, to the Bahamas?
Well, he went to an island called Hispaniola, which is actually where the Dominican Republic is in Haiti okay that's really that he never landed in what we call the United States now or even in uh... you know the middle part of uh... the the the continent it was down that area in the islands uh... he made a total of four voyages there and what was important I know they say well Leif Erikson and others were here before but the most important thing was that after Columbus arrived he opened up the connection between the western world in this part of the world. And that's why he's, it's really a seminal act of our world, uniting it all together, bringing Western culture to this part of the world.
Okay, cool. So, now we have this controversy where people are knocking over statues, and there's a lot of statues that have been knocked over around the world, not just Columbus. So, we're smart, you and I, we're smart people, we appreciate education, and so we know a decent person will know that he did some indecent things, but so did many people in history and at what point do you say, okay, now we don't like him anymore, we're smarter, this never would work in our day and age we have to knock over that statue, I mean, to what do you say about that?
Well, first off, let's talk about that era this was no Garden of Eden when Columbus got to this part of the world there was slavery child mutilations sacrifices cannibalism uh... and you know of course Columbus was a man of his times. You know we can't put five hundred years ago to today's standards we can't do it to the indigenous people and we can't do it to columbus but the things are saying about Columbus are just not true i'll give you a great example okay they claim that he attacked the tiny no tribes totally false as a matter of fact he protected the tiny milk tribe who was being hunted down by the carib tribe were cannibals and to prove that point is actually an indigenous person by the name of rafael ortiz who traces his lineage back to the tiny no tribe and he wrote four books defending columbus to correct that falsehood that howard's input out there and there's many other things like that you know for example he brought slavery to this part of the world. Totally not true. The indigenous people had plenty of slavery before he got here. Another one was that he brought disease and pestilence. He brought germs over. They didn't know what germs were back 500 years ago. So that's totally not true. And we could go fact for fact for fact of the things they're claiming Columbus did that he just did not do.
It's so exhausting trying to control the information that flows that's not correct in the world. Correct. Right. And it happens in multiple areas every day these days and it's exacerbated by the internet and the ability for information to flow so quickly. But I want to just take a minute on the indigenous people. I was here talking earlier in the show before you got on. I love the indigenous people. I want to celebrate them. I feel so bad about everything that happened to them that was wrong. And I'm an empath. I feel bad about things that happen bad to anybody, right? But why do you think they, or whoever they is, decided to take Columbus Day and say, okay, forget that. It's going to be Indigenous Peoples Day. Why couldn't they just say, fine, we'll have Italian Heritage Day, and then we'll also have Indigenous Peoples Day. What was the smasharoo?
Well, first off, let me tell you that i agree with you about celebrating indigenous people i i want to be right along with them celebrating but did you know Debbie that they've already got August ninth it is International uh... Indigenous Peoples day declared by United Nations great the day of the Thanksgiving which is called Native American Day and the whole month of November is for Native Americans right and I can tell you that since it's International Indigenous Peoples day on August ninth why take away a celebration for Italian Americans for indigenous people. Let's celebrate separately don't pick right against the other right and that's a little like a good mother an example that just occurred in a pop cup Florida they were considering eliminating Columbus Day they make an Indigenous Peoples Day and just like you're doing they listen to me I wrote to all the county commissioners are wrote to the to come to the uh... council people and explain to them that there is an international indigenous people's day on August 9th. And two weeks ago, that town did the right thing and preserved Columbus Day and declared August 9th as Indigenous Peoples Day. And that's the way we can join together. And don't forget also, Debbie, don't forget, Columbus Day is still a federal holiday. Indigenous Peoples Day is not. But we've got nothing against indigenous people, but don't pit one group against the other.
I agree, I agree, I agree. I want to point out that Columbus Day was dedicated by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892 and that was following the lynching in New Orleans of 11 Italian Americans. They were accused of a crime they did not commit and the day was made a federally recognized holiday by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937 to honor the contributions of Italian Americans
It’s incredible how persecuted Italian-Americans were. And it was really a tough time when they came here for a better life, like most people do, and they're still doing, hoping for a better chance. And you know, it always breaks your heart wondering how brave people had to be to leave their country, to go to another country to try and find a new life. That's, you know, amazing. But yeah, the Italians were not treated very well. I read the story of the Kensico Dam. You know, Italians built dams. They came here because they were industrious and they were masons and they could build but they were the like the low low low on the totem pole yes low low low like there was no lower than Italians and they were paid I remember this reading the story I have one guy conned them all to come and he said they were gonna pay him $25 a week or whatever and then he took the money back and they were like just trying to like figure it out you know. So here we are Columbus all right you know I wouldn't hang around with him now knowing he had some faults. Let's face it, you're telling me the facts of the... he didn't do bad things, but he didn't sound like the guy I wanted to invite to my dinner party. But anyway, why can't we change Columbus Day to Italian Heritage Day, or is that off the
No, we totally disagree with that, Debbie. I have to tell you candidly, is that Columbus really is someone that did something that no one else really did. He united the world together and of course let's look specifically at columbus day specifically in the united states you said in eighteen ninety two president harrison declared the first quorum to stand before him to anniversary columbus arrival in this part of world but he did that to quell the problems that were occurring because italian americans were treated so poorly in fact it was almost going to be a war between italy in the united states because of all the lynchings of italian americans around the country and that's why this side of tab columbus day look at you know my own family my grandfather who had owned fishing boats when he was in sicily we keep a cold in the streets were paid with gold in the united states he came here in the early nineteen hundreds we got here he couldn't get any work ended up working on the docks of new york and he was paid less than the chinese less than the african-americans and he he told me that you know he used to be spit upon by the others, but when Columbus Day rolled around, he felt that that was a very proud day for Italian-Americans. Our ancestors, our heritage is there with Columbus Day. We shouldn't capitulate and give in just because there's this false stuff going up about Columbus Day.
We shouldn't do it. Okay, okay, that's why you're here. I needed some education. I was reading about the documentary, which I have not seen, The Italian-Americans, that was on PBS, and it was 150 years of history and what they mentioned as I was doing my kind of background homework this morning is something that happened in my life I don't know about yours we didn't speak Italian it was sort of like no no no you got to blend in that is not cool and I was very annoyed and I'm more annoyed now that I'm older that I don't have a second language because it was like keep that quiet how about your family well actually I'm actually a
combination of both because what I was born in Brooklyn and not only was everybody in my area from Sicily But they wrote from Argento the same place where parents came from so I actually didn't speak English as a kid Really folks Sicily Sicily. It's my first language However, just like you when my parents moved into New Jersey and when I was about six years old They wanted to assimilate and be American My father was so proud to be an American citizen and that's why they told me don't speak Italian out of the house So I thought it was something wrong about being Italian later on I realized it was just them wanting to be put me to be part of American society And I got my patriotism from my father, but I still do speak Italian. Oh you do. I'm a little jealous
I speak Italian food like I can speak a lot you know which nobody knows what I'm saying unless they go what I go calamari Italians um Italian American have their own language when it comes to food, right? What do you call it? Ricotta or ricotta?
It's ricotta if you say it properly in Italian, but I know a lot of people say ricotta.
Ricotta, right. And the calamar, you say that? Calamard, yep. It's good to laugh. You know, Italians can make fun of themselves, you know that, right? Sure.
But nobody else can make fun of us.
Well, you know, unfortunately, like our organization, the Italian American One Voice Coalition, we have to really do stand up against the stereotyping that's up there because unfortunately italian-americans are the last ethnicity that it's okay to bash you know we see so much stereotyping that still occurs every time you see an italian-american on a movie or tv show he's either a mobster, a mafioso, or a bimbo, or a buffoon and you know i challenge you debbie and your audience to come up with a positive portrayal of an italian-american in a popular tv show or movie you just can't do it I know.
I need a new show.
I was just invited.
I'm very proud to share this with you and also my audience.
I just got an invitation from the Italian consulate in New York City to come be a speaker
in November of Italian American Women's Success Stories.
I was really, really flattered. I'm like, how did you find me? I want to do my part to keep the heritage and culture going, as we all do from time to time. I'm going to be a speaker in November of Italian American Women's Success Stories Women's Success Stories.
I want to do my part to keep the heritage and culture going, as we all do from wherever we have come. Right? I mean, we all have our family pride. But yeah, the whole Godfather story, it always blows my head that that's what keeps being shown. And you know who loves it more than anything else? The Italians, even though they know that's not how they want to be perceived.
Well of course the Godfather movies, you know, great cinema, we can't take away the fact of what they are as cinema, but it did really start in 1972, start this kind of craze about Italian American mobsters and mafiosi. You know, one thing, that was back in history, the one that actually hurts us more is The Sopranos because it took, it takes that and puts it in modern day suburbia. And that's what's really unfortunate. And you know, when they look at Italian Americans, they look at those shows and there's so much more accomplishment by Italian Americans.
Yeah, I gotta just continue this conversation some other time with you. But boy, oh boy, did you come at the right time to this show today. I can't thank you enough, Andre. Domino, I'm saying your name correctly, right? The president of the Italian American One Voice Coalition. Really nice to meet you. I'd like to have you back another time to talk about your family's company and all the inventions along the way that we've run out of time for now. But continued great success to you and have a great Columbus Day.
Thank you, Debbie. Happy Columbus Day.
Pleasure. Nice to meet you. All right, when we come back here on the show, I think we should talk about more of what Italians have invented. I got you through the Castro convertible sofa, Mr. Coffee in the Jacuzzi. Can you imagine what I'm going to tell you about next. Oh, you have to come back and that'll be in just a moment here on the Debbie Nigro show.
Transcribed with Cockatoo