I've long been a proponent of leaving the Christopher Columbus statues up because of what they mean and have meant to the Italian American people. Now an Italian American organization called "The Italian American One Voice Coalition is suing West Orange and Mayor Robert Parisi over their decision to remove the monument based on a deprivation of civil rights.

According to the lawsuit, "The removal of the monument denies Italian-Americans of their Constitutional right to equal protection of the laws by treating Italian-Americans differently than other similarly situated individuals or groups.” They're also asking a federal judge to mandate restoring the monument which was placed at the intersection of Valley and King Street in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the new world.

In my opinion, what Columbus Day and the monuments are symbols to the Italian people of how far they've come and how hard they've had to work to become accepted in this "melting pot" that is America. They never asked for anything, nor were they given it.

Like many other nationalities and ethnicity's who came to America, the Italians were not welcome with open arms. There was no Entenmann's and Sanka, instead there was racism and xenophobia. They were compared to African Americans because of the color of their skin and the jobs they would take.

The Italians were the victims of the largest mass lynching in this country which took place in New Orleans on March 14, 1891. Theodore Roosevelt called it "a rather good thing." Do whatever you want with his statue.

It was that lynching and the reaction of the Italian government which led to President Benjamin Harrison proclaiming "Columbus Day' in 1892. Regardless of the accuracy of the Columbus story, it gave the hard-working Italians who desperately wanted to fit into and be part of America a way to do it.

That shouldn't be taken away because others don't agree with it. What we should have instead is more education on the Italian contribution to America and other Italian heroes to honor as well.

As someone who grew up in an Italian-Hispanic Union City and attended the Columbus Day parades, performed at fundraisers for the Knights of Columbus and heard the stories of what my family went through when they arrived in America and what their rights mean to them, I say they have a right to celebrate their history with the monument that's a large part of it.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7pm-11pm. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.

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