New York City lawmakers are considering removing the statue dedicated to Christopher Columbus that stands 70 feet tall in Manhattan's Columbus Circle. Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a review of the monument, and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito agreed the "controversial figure" may need to be taken down.
The National Christopher Columbus Association's Patrick Korten believes it is not only a foolish mission, but the city is using 'KKK-like tactics' to remove the statue. The effort reminds him of "the worst aspects of the bigotry and hatred Italian Americans and other immigrants once had to face in New York, when Catholic immigration was banned by the state's first constitution, Korten explains in a new statement.
The lawmakers considering this "ill-conceived attempt to rewrite history," Korten says, should consider a few things. Judging by his list, history has not been kind to the discoverer of the Americas.
- Modern biographers, including Stanford University professor emerita Carol Delaney, have shown that Columbus was a decent man who is improperly blamed for everything that went wrong after 1492.
- Columbus has been a target of white supremacists since the 1920s, when a resurgent Ku Klux Klan attacked monuments and celebrations of Columbus from coast to coast. They hated that he was Mediterranean not Anglo, that he sailed for Spain, not England, that he was popular in the immigrant community, and most of all, that he was Catholic. (Catholics, along with African Americans and Jews, were regular targets of the Klan).
- The current caricature of Columbus now being peddled by some politicians and activists comes from the likes of Ward Churchill, the disgraced professor infamous for calling New York victims of 9/11 "little Eichmanns." The fact that his outlandish claims in a 1992 article on Columbus – published by Anarchist magazine – now pass for political discourse in the city is not worthy of New York.
- The disparagement of Columbus today has its roots in a centuries-old habit of painting Italian and Hispanic immigrants in this country as cruel, violent, sexually aggressive, and untrustworthy. In the context of Spanish exploration, this is known as the "Black Legend" – based on propaganda peddled about Spain dating from the 16th century, which continues to be the grist for racially tinged comments about Hispanics and Italians to this day.
Oh, and Christopher Columbus is not just a target in New York. A group of Minnesotans are currently trying to replace one of his monuments with Prince.
The movement to take down statues across the country began after the carnage that transpired in Charlottesville, VA a few weeks ago, when white supremacists protested the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. A young counter protester died that day. Several bloody protests later, and more and more Americans are demanding Confederate monuments, as well as any statue dedicated to a president who owned slaves, be taken down.
For more insight into why Korten is equating current leftist tactics to take down statues of Columbus with the KKK, read his joint op-ed in The Hill.