Growing up in an Italian community in Union City, Columbus Day was a big deal. We had the day off from school and parades, it was big. The Knights of Columbus were a huge presence and we celebrated the Italian man who discovered America. What did we know?

Now that much more has come out about Columbus our new woke society wants him removed from buildings and his statues taken down, violently in some places. I've been a proponent of leaving the statues up because to me the legend of Columbus was the love the old Italians who literally went through hell not only to come to New Jersey, but to stay here and thrive, had for him.

Like many other nationalities and ethnicities who came to America, the Italians were not welcome with open arms. There was no Entenmanns 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.

I could write an endless post listing the contributions of the Italian-American's to New Jersey. For them as well as myself, the legend of Columbus wasn't his story, but their story of what it meant to them to be part of this country, their love of this country and how they celebrated it and continue to do so.

So if you're taking down the Columbus statues and renaming the schools, it's only right to do so with something else to honor the Italian contribution. Show them that their contributions matter.

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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