Why New Jersey should never have an insulting ‘Italian Heritage Day’
As an alternative to Columbus Day, which continues to be canceled across America, New York public schools will be celebrating "Italian Heritage Day."
Actually Italian Heritage Day will be shared with "Indigenous Peoples Day." How about that? You get to celebrate two great cultures for the price of just one day. Yeah, how about that??
As a third-generation Italian-American, I find it insulting that for all the contributions the Italian Americans made to this country the best that New York, whose Italian Gov. Cuomo's family legacy resonates with the Italian American people, could do is recognize those accomplishments with the sharing of a day.
There's a great PBS series called "The Italian Americans" which discusses the importance of family, how they became Americans, the loyalty they showed after fighting their old country during World War II, and when they broke through. I'm showing it to my 14-year-old sons so that they know their heritage.
When the Italians first came here they were not given sanctuary but instead handed a shovel. They were not welcome with open arms but instead looked down upon. The Italians were the victims of the largest mass lynching in this country when 11 were hung in New Orleans after being found not guilty for the murder of a police chief. Theodore Roosevelt, according to TheAmericanMag.com referred to it as "a rather good thing."
When World War II broke out, hundreds of Italian "enemy aliens" were sent to internment camps, more than 10,000 were forced from their homes. In 1941, the Italian Americans Yankee centerfielder Joe DiMaggio was the most popular man in America while his parents were unwanted enemy aliens. Go figure.
Those were just some of the adversities suffered by the Italian-Americans. The accomplishments are way too many to celebrate in just a day, or half a day. Some of the greatest singers are Italian-American. In New Jersey, we have Frank Sinatra, Frankie Valli, whose real name is Francis Stephen Castelluccio, Jon Bon Jovi, even Bruce Springsteen is part Italian. We could also talk about movies like "The Godfather," TV shows like "The Sopranos" and how the Italian Americans have to deal with the mob stereotype. FYI — The Bank of America was first known as the Bank of Italy.
My point is that if you're going to honor the accomplishments of the Italian Americans, you're going to need more than a shared day. That would be the same with Indigenous People, as well as every other race and ethnicity that makes up this great country that we live in.
I say we make October "Italian History Month". Perhaps another month could be "Indigenous Peoples' Month." Maybe March could be Irish American Month, then Jewish history month. Whatever, but don't insult the Italian Americans and all accomplishments and adversity by acknowledging all that with just half a day.
February is "Black History Month." We also have Hispanic History Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Now we need to add to that by honoring the other races and ethnicities who make up this great country as well. Then as we get a much better understanding of all that our ancestors went through to give us a better life, maybe we can all get along and give each other a better life as well.
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.