To the editor:
Columbus Day will continue to be commemorated in many cities across our land, but not in Alexandria. It is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, honoring Native Americans, whose contributions to the City of Alexandria need to be better known. Our libraries will be hosting special events in this regard.
But will they erase the history of this day, especially the reason why Columbus Day became a holiday? Growing up in Chicago as an Italian-American, Columbus Day was special to us. It had nothing whatsoever to do with Christopher Columbus.
It had to do with recognition of the discrimination against Italian-Americans that led to the largest lynching in American history. The outrage over this event in New Orleans in 1891 led to pressure to recognize Italian immigrants as equal citizens in our country. Columbus Day was created for this purpose.
Italian-Americans are proud of our heritage. Just think of cuisine before our arrival, if nothing else. We never understood how the British could possibly enjoy life with their cuisine. But to be honest, we no longer feel the need for special recognition. We no longer need the dash (-) when we identify ourselves. We are simply, and proudly, Americans.
While our libraries will no doubt use this holiday to educate our citizenry on the history and contributions of Native Americans, as they should, will they erase the history of what came before Indigenous People’s Day? Will they similarly erase the history of the statue at the intersection of Prince and Washington streets? Isn’t history about the whole truth, not just what we want it to be?
We owe those who come after us to understand how our nation has evolved. It is a turbulent history, triumphant for some, tragic for others, including Native Americans. The truth can set us free, but only if it is comprehensive, not selective.
I pray our libraries are true to their real purpose and do not erase history on Oct. 12.
-Jim Larocco, Alexandria