Let’s Not Lose Our Heads

Dear Friends,

Brian Lehrer, a popular radio and podcast host on WNYC in New York City, presented a special segment on Columbus Day, 2023, featuring a decapitated Columbus statue and these words:  “The second Monday in October is now known in New York City as Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Teachers call in to talk about how they have changed their lesson plans over the years since celebrating Christopher Columbus has fallen out of favor.”  The show included a reading from the work of discredited author Howard Zinn. We wrote to Mr. Lehrer, copied below, asking for equal time. We sincerely hope he will say, “Yes!” After all, October is Italian Heritage Month.

Dear Mr Lehrer,

As a longtime host for WNYC with a reputation for integrity and fairness, your treatment of the October 9th holiday, I am sorry to say, was lacking in balance and the program’s customary standards for thorough reporting.  

New York State celebrates and observes Columbus Day on the second Monday of October as a legal holiday. Congress followed New York’s example and enshrined into law the celebration as a federal holiday. Hundreds of thousands gather in Manhattan to cheer a colorful and joyous national parade with roots back to 1892. Dozens of communities in WNYC’s listening area convene their own public parades, memorial tributes and celebrations as do cities, villages and communities across the nation. We know WABC-TV’s three-hour popular presentation captures upwards of a million or more viewers live and nationwide on social media.  

Columbus and Italian American heritage are deeply intertwined but the Columbus tradition continues as a force for unity among the Portuguese and the Spanish speaking nations who celebrate La Dia de Raza, as has been so eloquently explained by author and journalist Miguel Perez. (Please see the link below). We hasten to mention the diversity of communities that have joined the celebratory parades in the Bronx and Brooklyn where more recent arrivals have been warmly embraced under the Columbus name.  

Please make no mistake that when it comes to a day of celebration and recognition for Indigenous People we fully support a distinct day dedicated for indigenous celebrations without hurtful, divisive distractions. When you offend one culture, ethnicity or religion, you offend all. 

Finally, the recitation of Howard Zinn’s writings as an authentic historical representation of Columbus was most troubling in light of recent scholarly examinations of Zinn’s deeply flawed and factually challenged treatise.

As we continue Italian American Heritage Month in October we urge you to give listeners an opportunity for balance, fairness, and a well-founded perspective rooted in a deeper understanding of the facts.  Author Mary Grabar, an authority on Zinn and his writings, and I would be grateful for the opportunity to shed light on this timely topic with you and your listeners. With light there is truth in darkness there is none. 

Link to Professor Perez’s research:

Most respectfully yours, 

Angelo Vivolo
Columbus Heritage Coalition