As statues of racists and slave traders come down across America and the world, the debate around Christopher Columbus resumes. Many have accepted the fact he was a cretin who oversaw the enslavement, rape, and systematic murder of Native peoples. He was a bastard even by 15th century standards and deserves to have his stone head decapitated the world over. But some people are still stuck to the past and what he represents for Italian Americans.
#BREAKING: Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it's not time for Christopher Columbus statue to go: "The Christopher Columbus statue in some way represents the Italian American legacy in this country." pic.twitter.com/lUa9Fuwif3
— The Hill (@thehill) June 11, 2020
Italian Americans really screwed this one up from the jump. Columbus does not deserve to be celebrated, let alone have statues erected in his honor. Attaching your cultural identity to a raping, pillaging asshole is a tough look, but it can be corrected. Here are just a few Italian historical figures who deserve the reverence that Columbus had erroneously received for generations.
If Italian Americans are attached to the explorer-type, why not the explorer for whom America is actually named? Historians argue over how many voyages Vespucci actually made, but his letters—which are also disputed—spread knowledge of the “new world” to the European public, many of whom didn’t believe the newly discovered continent(s) were habitable. He’s sort of like Columbus if you take out the murder, rape, slavery, and subjugation of Native peoples.
Meucci was an inventor from Florence who first came up with the idea for the telephone in 1849, filed a “caveat” (kind of like an early patent) in 1871, but couldn’t renew it due to “hardships.” Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone five years later in 1876 and Meucci, as Tony Soprano put it, got robbed. Congress didn’t officially recognize his work for more than a century, even though Italian grandparents have been telling his story for generations.
Doesn’t it seem like a good idea to revere a literal saint? Cabrini arrived in America in 1889 and worked tirelessly to help Italian immigrants in the United States. She set up schools, orphanages, and hospitals—some of which stayed open into the 21st century. Cabrini founded 67 institutions in America and abroad. She’s got a number of shrines dedicated to her across the United States, so she could really work as a Columbus stand-in (without his destructive, murderous colonialism).
Fermi is one of the most famous physicists of all-time and is commonly referred to as the “architect of the nuclear age.” He built the world’s first nuclear reactor and worked on the Manhattan Project which developed the first atomic bomb. These aren’t the most wonderful things to celebrate given the way nuclear energy has been used to decimate populations and threaten global destruction, but again, it beats Columbus’ bullshit.
Literally Any Renaissance Artist
Okay, so we’re breaking our five-person limit. Whatever. We’re grasping at straws here. Just anybody but Columbus, please. Any one of them is fine.