Making a Tinderbox Out of a City


In response to an ideologically driven attack on a statue of Christopher Columbus in Providence on Columbus Day, this is a terrible idea, as reported by the Associated Press:

Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorza told WPRO he’d entertain the idea of moving the statue from the city’s Elmwood neighborhood to the Federal Hill neighborhood, which is known for its Italian American community and Italian restaurants. His spokeswoman later said that any move would require input from the community.

If it isn’t immediately clear why moving the statue to an ethnic enclave would be the wrong response, consider this commentary from Italo-American Club of Rhode Island President Anthony Napolitano, appearing in a WPRI article by Nancy Krause:

While moving the statue may not guarantee it won’t be vandalized, Napolitano said the plan would include putting security cameras in place.

“We’ll watch the statue,” he said.

Because the city apparently can’t, the Italians will defend their statue from the assault of others.

Dividing the city into fortified neighborhoods based on demographic identity would be a disaster waiting to happen.  It would declare a retrogression of our community toward a less-enlightened time.  It would be an acknowledgement that, as a society, we are incapable of the maturity necessary to take a balanced view of history and handle each other as individuals and as peers in the modern world.

We face a lot of work undoing the deterioration of our shared culture, but the easy accommodation of moving statues would be a marker of a step too far.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    My relatives grew up in Providence at a time when it was Irish and Italian neighborhoods, one didn’t walk in the other. The proper attitude for the city would be to say “no more of this” and seek prosecutions. MLK’s family gets $100,000 for the use of his image. I wonder what CC’s family got?

  • Rhett Hardwick

    “Making a Tinderbox Out of a City” Exactly when did “making a tinderbox” become legitimate political speech? Although the earliest riots that come to mind are the New York Draft Riots (1863?), I am sure there were earlier ones. In any case, by the 1960’s, perhaps 70’s, it was possible for a “Community organizer” to demand political change with “It could be a long, hot, summer”. Today, no one would remind him of the severe penalties for “incitement to riot”. How have we come so low?