As Italian-American New Yorkers, our families came to this land over the past century as working class immigrants, fleeing war and poverty . Despite this history, we have been taught that our legacy is proudly tied to Christopher Columbus - a man known for sailing west under the Spanish Crown in the late 1400s. Upon his arrival in what we now refer to as the Caribbean, Columbus enslaved humans, launched a genocide, and set the stage for hundreds of years of settler-colonialism, chattel-slavery, imperialism, and exploitation.
This image of Columbus as a symbol of the working class Italian-American experience should be seen as an absurdity. However, if we are to be honest with ourselves we must recognize the truth of it. We were able to climb the socio-economic ladder precisely by buying into and participating in the settler-colonial project that Columbus began, situating ourselves as both enforcers and beneficiaries of white supremacy.
Once heavily influenced by labor organizing and anarchism, Italian-American communities in New York City are now deeply rooted in the NYPD and the political power structure. Eric Garner was murdered by Daniel Pantaleo, an Italian-American police officer. Beyond our relationship with the NYPD, we have become entrenched in racism and we are fully complicit in the maintenance of the status quo.
In this context, Italian-Americans must reject Christopher Columbus. To honor his legacy in both name and likeness is an affront to the dignity of all oppressed people. At the same time, we must acknowledge our own role in maintaining systems of oppression, and reconnect with our own rich history of working class struggle - especially the role of Italian immigrant women in the labor movement here in NYC.
We must elevate the work of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Women, & Queer led political formations, especially those with uncompromising, ambitious, and transformative visions for the future. We encourage Italian-Americans to explore the politics of abolitionism.
Let us join in solidarity with those who have been resisting for centuries and forge a future based on the collective freedom of all people.
WE DEMAND, from Governor Cuomo, and Mayor De Blasio: