A few days ago, this space talked about a plan proposed by New York City’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio to review the Big Apple’s statues and monuments for the purpose of seeing how they fare against an as-yet undefined “purity” test. The purity test would pertain to the matter of to what degree the figures symbolized in various public displays were guilty of transgressions evaluated in terms of the present-day social justice court of public opinion. Those statues and monuments that do not pass…would be hauled away.
One of the statues de Blasio’s office said would be under review is that of Christopher Columbus. Although seen as the “discoverer of America” in popular culture, Columbus, like so many historical figures active centuries ago, is now reviled by many on the left because their behavior and activities do not pass the social justice tests framed in terms of 21st century sensibilities.
As The New York Times has noted, however, since de Blasio first made his announcement, he appears now to be quietly stepping back from making any commitments on the matter of removing the Columbus statue, or any statues at all. Since his plans were made public, de Blasio has become silent on the matter of statue purging, and he has even announced that he will march in October’s Columbus Day Parade as a “proud Italian-American.”
Moreover, there has been no further talk about the appointment of a statue review commission, and de Blasio is now saying that rather than hauling statues away, plaques might be added to the displays instead for the purpose of giving “balance” to the historical contributions of the honored.
It’s believed there are two elements conspiring to give the mayor second thoughts. One, as a growing number of polls indicate that statue removal is something that appeals to a vocal minority, rather than to a majority of voters, politicians quick to silence the cacophony may find that doing so comes back to bite them on election day.
And as for Columbus , specifically, de Blasio presides over a city that is famously multi-ethnic. While removing public tributes to Columbus may please some elements of his constituency, it is angering others, particularly Italian-Americans.
William Cunningham, a spokesman for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, addressed with The New York Times the blowback de Balsio is facing, saying, “The Christopher Columbus monument has become the symbol of when you run into something rashly and don’t think it thoroughly through, you leave yourself open to criticism from places you don’t expect it. Here he is, a half Italian-American and he’s getting grief from Italian Americans all over the City of New York.”
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large