Statement on the National Italian American Foundation

The Armchair Critic
5 min readJun 18, 2020


Some people and organisations have an enviable ability to focus on what matters the most… to them. One great example is the National Italian American Foundation. Founded in 1975 as, in their own words, a “non-profit” “with no political affiliations”, its mission is “to serve as a resource for the Italian American Community; to preserve the Italian American heritage and culture; to promote and inspire a positive image and legacy of Italian Americans; and to strengthen and empower ties between the United States and Italy”. Missing here are the words, “and nothing f***ing else”.

Why, you ask? They recently put out a statement on the latest pandemic that is severely affecting a much-marginalised and under-privileged group — Christopher Columbus Memorials. We’ll get to this specific statement in a bit, but that this issue, for them, is almost as big an issue as COVID-19 or bigger than the protests for racial equality can be easily discerned from the statements they have released recently: one expressing their solidarity with Italy in March with respect to COVID-19, another about recognising Dr. Fauci, this one from June 12th on Columbus and another very explicitly and evocatively titled “The National Italian American Foundation Statement” For the tl;dr crowd, I can actually post the entire text here:

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is comprised of men and women of Italian heritage whose ancestors immigrated to the United States seeking a better life. In too many cases, they were met with prejudice and intolerance, while many Italian American leaders served at the forefront of the struggle for equality and justice. Unfortunately, the senseless death of George Floyd underscores the bitter truth that disenfranchised and marginalized groups are still the victims of racism and injustice.

We commit through our programming and practices to live by the words inspired by the great Italian American patriot Filippo Mazzei: “All men are created equal.”

(They also have one from January 28th titled: “The National Italian American Foundation Statement on the Tragic Death of Kobe Bryant”, but let’s not digress here. Focus.)

NIAF: Focused and dripping with 103 words of brevity. Which is probably why the statement didn’t say “All men and Christopher Columbus statues are created equal”. But lest you wonder if all that brevity was diluting their focus, we shall go back to their statement on June 12th on Columbus, or rather the statues and the holiday commemorating him.

The title, “NIAF Statement on Christopher Columbus & Columbus Day”, and the length of the article (725 words) clearly demonstrate to you how important this issue is to the NIAF.

In the 725 words of eloquence, and yes, focus, you learn that “As an organization devoted to the promotion and preservation of Italian American heritage, [NIAF] support[s] unequivocally maintaining Columbus Day’s status as a federal holiday.” Yes, that unequivocal focus on things that really matter.

Then they delve into their beliefs (n. trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something) and suppositions (n. an uncertain belief) to explain why Christopher Columbus was such a swell dude and yet how marginalised and discriminated against he is today. Let’s go over them one by one.

We believe that Christopher Columbus’s courageous voyage was the catalyst that initiated over 500 years of immigration to the Americas by people from every corner of the Earth — all of whom were seeking a better life for their families.

All of whom? Including Columbus, his brothers, Francisco Pizarro, Diego de Velázquez, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, to name just a few, were seeking a better life for their families through conquest, plunder and enslavement of native lands, resources and peoples?

The original intent and spirit behind Columbus Day was to stoke pride for our young nation.

When Columbus Day was made a federal holiday in 1937, it quickly became a source of dignity and self-worth for Italian Americans and (more broadly) Catholics in light of the discrimination that these groups were facing.

What better way to give dignity and pride to ethnicities that get discriminated against than by having a federal holiday in memory of one of the worst members of that ethnicity who probably was the pioneer of discrimination in the Americas?

In our view, it is unfair to apply today’s political norms to a historical figure from over 500 years ago. If the practice of applying today’s political norms to our Founding Fathers was widely accepted, there would be a strong argument to denigrate some of the most important figures in American history. Many memorials to Franklin Roosevelt stand today, even though he oversaw large-scale Japanese American and Italian American internment during World War II.

This truly bizarre dip into the waters that only those with no valid arguments dare tread is nowadays called what-about-ery.

Nor are we tearing down memorials to Theodore Roosevelt, who after the aforementioned 1891 New Orleans lynching, wrote that he thought the event was “a rather good thing”.

Seriously?! You want a f***ing cookie for that?

Opposition to Columbus Day has led to vandalism of Columbus memorials commemorating the explorer’s historic achievements. […] That same year [2018], Italian Americans witnessed the Columbus statue in Yonkers, New York be unceremoniously decapitated.

Given the reference to the “explorer’s historic achievements”, maybe if we look at just a couple of them below, emphasis mine, we might be led to believe that the issue with the decapitation of the statue was the unceremonious nature, which clearly doesn’t commemorate his “historic achievements”.

Columbus once punished a man found guilty of stealing corn by having his ears and nose cut off and then selling him into slavery. Testimony recorded in the report stated that Columbus congratulated his brother Bartolomeo on “defending the family” when the latter ordered a woman paraded naked through the streets and then had her tongue cut out for suggesting that Columbus was of lowly birth.[…] he first ordered a brutal crackdown in which many natives were killed, and then paraded their dismembered bodies through the streets in an attempt to discourage further rebellion.

Native Americans, like Italian Americans, should have every right to celebrate and educate others about their history and culture. However, we believe that to repeal Columbus Day as a federal holiday (which is celebrated by over 20 million Italian Americans) only to replace it by another holiday celebrated by another ethnic group, would be culturally insensitive.

You’d have to read this twice to make sure you’re not reading something on The Onion. Culturally Insensitive. Let those words sink in.

We believe that Christopher Columbus properly represents the important values of risk and discovery that are at the heart of the American dream.

They want to retain a national holiday and statues in the US commemorating Christopher Columbus, who

  1. Got funding from the King of Spain to go to India, unlike impoverished Italian immigrants who came to the US

(Also lost his f***ing way and ended up in Central/South America)

2. Looted, raped, pillaged, enslaved and tortured the native peoples


But, hey, at least he had focus, right?