My friend, Professor Connell (a.k.a. Bill) is correct in pointing out the distinction between the “creation of narratives that have no foundation in history,” which I state, and the “inevitable … interpret[ation]” of the monument, which he underscores.
This is exactly my point when I speak to “narratives that have no foundation in history” both in the interview and in my small book, The Columbus Affair: Imperatives for an Italian/American Agenda (2021). Bill’s point about the linkage of the lynching to the monument is correct, I am just not convinced of the inevitability. Might we speak in terms of greater back-room manipulations of those who saw Columbus as a way to enter into that world of “whiteness” from which the “Italian residents” were prohibited, as the New York Times itself, as Bill points out, had excoriated them a year earlier?
This is a question that future scholars of the Italian experience in the United States should, without doubt, examine. We just need to hope that the academic institutions that both Bill and I inhabit, as well as just about every other graduate program related to Italian studies that exists, decide that such a field is worthy of study. To date, not one institution of higher learning in the United States has any formal, curricular structure that allows for the study of Italian/American history, literature, cinema, material culture, folklore, and the like.
Now, perhaps, is the time for all those untrained wannabe historians and cultural critics to join the scholarly community to convince said institutions to create such curricular structures. This, I would submit, is a much better expense of time and energy than the future March on Rome, with black shirt and all (https://www.onlineprimo.com), scheduled for this coming May. In the end, Bill and I are in complete agreement regarding “the value of history and the need for rigorous discussion to replace the retelling of old fables.”
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