NYC schools try to save face with ‘Italian Heritage Day’ after dumping Columbus Day
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Maybe they should have explored this idea — or even checked with City Hall — before moving ahead full sail.
As backlash over its previously unannounced decision to scrap Columbus Day snowballed Tuesday, the New York City Department of Education later said it would now close schools on Oct. 11 for “Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous People’s Day.”
“City Hall wants Italian Heritage Day and Indigenous People’s Day so no one is left out,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio’s spokesman Bill Neidhardt as confusion reigned over the woke imbroglio.
Asked whether City Hall had been aware of the decision to wipe Columbus Day from the school calendar, Neidhardt only said, “We do not agree with not including Italian Heritage Day.”
Education Department spokeswoman Danielle Filson told The Post the calendar posted online Tuesday morning had been “updated” after initially referring to the holiday that once honored the Italian explorer only as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
“Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous People’s Day will celebrate the contributions and legacies of Italian Americans and recognize that Native people are the first inhabitants of the land that became our country,” Filson said in a statement.
“By including these holidays on our calendar we are honoring the past, present, and future contributions of Indigenous communities and Italian Americans.”
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross also seemed to try and play cleanup, writing on Twitter that discussions about renaming the Columbus holiday began last year, in an effort “to better reflect and honor more than just one person.”
“It’s now Italian Heritage/Indigenous People’s Day, honoring the contributions of Italian-Americans as well as our indigenous communities,” she wrote.
The retroactive nod to Italian heritage comes after politicians of Italian descent and advocates trashed the “woke” move to cancel Columbus, which they said was an insult to their culture and possible violation of their civil rights.
The DOE backtrack to include Italian Heritage did not seem to quell their concerns.
“It’s absolutely outrageous that the Department of Education did this, and I’m going to try to build a coalition to fight this,” said US Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Nassau), adding that tacking on Italian Heritage Day just “wasn’t good enough.”
“Columbus Day has been in place for a long, long period of time, and it’s important to Italian Americans who faced tremendous discrimination in this country,” he told The Post.
Assembly Education Committee Chairman Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx), said the move was “offensive to me and all Italian-Americans.”
“I don’t know why they would so something like that. You’re diluting the meaning of the holiday,” Benedetto said, adding that “It’s equally offensive to indigenous people, who should also have a separate day of recognition.”
Councilman Bob Holden, a Queens Democrat, agreed that removing Columbus from the school calendar was “a slap in the face” to Italian-American New Yorkers, saying that the explorer “is a symbol of Italian heritage here in New York and around the world.”
“Italian American students are entitled to the same rights as other groups. These include the federally guaranteed right of equal protection,” Angelo Vivolo of the Columbus Heritage Coalition said following the initial news of Columbus Day’s cancelation.
“We reserve the right to defend our students and our culture in the courts and the ballot box in New York, where nearly 20 percent identify as having Italian racial heritage,” Vivolo said.
The Italian explorer’s legacy has been hotly-contested in the Big Apple since Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a “Monuments Commission” in 2018 to reconsider statues of historical figures who’s past included connections to slavery or oppression.
Dozens of cities and jurisdictions across the US have ditched Columbus Day to honor Native Americans instead — following the lead of ultra-liberal Berkeley, Calif., which began observing the latter holiday in 1992.
Additional reporting by Carl Campanile
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