Weekly Feature

2017-03-15 / Editorial

Remarks draw unfavorable comparisons

Bee Editorial

The Williamsville School Board last week — in a contentious vote — agreed to leave Columbus Day on its academic calendar. The topic was discussed for several months after it was first introduced by board President Toni Vazquez in October.

At that time, Vazquez said she would like to have the board review the possibility of substituting Indigenous Peoples Day for Columbus Day on the district calendar. The following meetings included discussions by the board and members of the public, including parents, students and civic groups.

According to www.History.com, Columbus Day is a “U.S. holiday that commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492.”

The site further notes that the holiday was unofficially celebrated in a number of cities and states as early as the 18th century but did not become a federal holiday until 1937 under the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt. Columbus, whose actual name was Cristoforo Colombo, was a native of Genoa, Italy, although his voyage was sponsored by Spain.

While we understand that historians have noted that Columbus committed atrocities against humanity — including pillaging and slavery — it is important to recognize that there is a Native American Heritage Day, a federal holiday that falls on the day after Thanksgiving. We feel that removing Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day would not have been fair because of the existing Native American Heritage Day. If anything, the district should listen to the words of Peter Lojacono, president of the Federation of Italian-American Societies of Western New York. Lojacono said student curriculum should be modified to better emphasize Native American Heritage Day while moving society away from the day after Thanksgiving being commonly referred to as “Black Friday.”

We also feel that Vazquez’s nearly 10-minute dialogue on the matter toed the line of inappropriate and disproportionate comparisons, such as when mentioning an “Adolf Hitler Day.” If it is the will of a board to keep Columbus Day on the academic calendar, a board’s leader should graciously accept the outcome. Standing up for your rights and the rights of others shouldn’t come at the price of stepping on values and principles.

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