In a possibly futile effort to please both Italian Americans who celebrate Christopher Columbus and racial justice advocates who accuse him of genocide, the New York City public school system has designated Oct. 11 as Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous People’s Day. The double-naming of the school holiday happened Tuesday after a calendar for the 2021-22 school year was initially posted with Oct. 11, the AP reports, which is Columbus Day, a state holiday, labeled simply Indigenous Peoples' Day. The change, which was made without the knowledge of the city's mayor, drew swift condemnation from elected officials, including Democratic state Sens. Diane Savino and Joe Addabbo, who called the renaming of Columbus Day "block-headed" and said it did "terrible disservice to a difficult and complex conversation." The city Department of Education then backtracked and changed the name again.
"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," department spokesperson Danielle Filson said in a statement. That compromise then drew fresh condemnation Wednesday from New York's Italian American governor, Andrew Cuomo, who said it was divisive to force the two groups to share a holiday. "I support an Indigenous peoples' holiday, but I also support Columbus Day. You can have an Indigenous peoples' day without intruding on Columbus Day," Cuomo said. Cuomo, a Democrat, said Columbus Day will remain a state holiday. It is also a federal holiday. The legacy of Columbus has drawn scrutiny in recent years, with cities and states renaming the second Monday in October to honor the Indigenous populations that were decimated by violence and disease after Europeans arrived in the Americas.
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