To the Editor:
In the days leading up to Columbus Day, Italian Americans entering M&T Bank locations received an anti-Italian message from bank executives. Posted signs at local branches recognized the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day. Favoring one American group at the expense of another is disrespectful and discriminatory. The Italian-American Defense League condemns M&T Bank’s actions.
Columbus Day was first recognized as a holiday in 1892 after 11 innocent Italian immigrants were lynched by an angry mob in New Orleans. President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed Columbus Day a holiday as an apology to Italians and to repair relations with the Italian government. In 1934, Congress renewed that promise by designating Columbus Day a National Holiday. More than thirty years later, Congress designated Columbus Day a Federal Holiday in 1968. For 131 years, Columbus Day has symbolized the government’s commitment to recognizing the contributions of Italian Americans to the United States.
For the record, Italian Americans believe in recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Native American Day, which is the day after Thanksgiving or on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in August. As a matter of fact, changing Columbus Day which takes place during Italian American Heritage Month in October is nonsensical when the entire month of November is named Native American Heritage Month by Congress. If recognizing Indigenous peoples is the true motive of M&T Bank, there are other days on the calendar to do so.
Changing Columbus Day is anti-Italian. After 131 years, why do Italian Americans have to fight year in and year out to maintain the holiday that honors our contributions to society? Why are M&T Bank executives serving political revisionists by rewriting history? Why are M&T Bank executives serving anti-capitalist activists who seek to destroy traditional American institutions to rebuild America in a new Neo-Marxist era. Maybe M&T Bank executives are so out of touch, they have no idea what is happening at their branches. So far, our private communications to bank executives have been ignored.
On behalf of the Italian-American Defense League, I ask M&T Bank to write an apology and promise to correct their actions in the future.
Italian-American Defense League
Matthew Guarnieri is President of the Italian-American Defense League (IADL), a nonprofit that “supports education, portrays Italians positively, and preserves cultural traditions,” according to its website.