By J. Debusk
I am an Italian-American resident of Wellesley, and I am voting “yes” on Question 1. Being Italian is a source of great pride for me. I treasure my memories of spending Sundays with my grandfather as he would stir his famous “gravy” while regaling us with stories about our Italian ancestors who date back to the 15th century before Italy was unified as a country in 1861.
We Italians are a loud and proud group, and I realize that some Italian-Americans regard Columbus as a valiant cultural icon. For them, Columbus Day is recognized as a holiday devoted to celebrating Italian Heritage. However, why should Columbus be celebrated as a hero when he symbolizes exploitation, white supremacy, racism, and oppression?
Italian culture is rich and vast; Italian heritage is comprised of valuable accomplishments and notable heroes. Let us celebrate the artists, architects, musicians, scientists, mathematicians, engineers, inventors, and writers instead of Columbus. I would prefer to not have my heritage represented by a racist symbol.
The version of history I was taught in school was one-sided and incomplete. As so many people are doing at this time, I am taking a deep dive into the history of racism in the United States. I am “unlearning” many of the falsehoods that I was taught in school and focusing on listening to and learning from the perspectives of the people who are marginalized and oppressed. There is importance to learning the truth about this country’s history, recognizing the mistakes made, and fully acknowledging Indigenous people as fellow citizens and as members of sovereign nations. I have a duty and a responsibility to be an ally to underrepresented people. However, ally is a verb, and to be a true ally, I must commit to engaging in anti-racist action. This is why as an Italian-American Wellesley resident, I am voting YES on Question 1.
If the wish of our town is to genuinely unite and not divide our community, then we need to come together and actively support this nationwide, anti-racist movement. The town of Wellesley has an opportunity to take an anti-racist stance and respect its Indigenous citizens’ wishes by not celebrating Columbus and his painful legacy. Wellesley has always been a leader in Massachusetts, and we want to lead in this effort to recognize and respect the ongoing contributions, knowledge, and resilience of Indigenous people. Voting YES on Question 1 benefits our entire community. I invite you to please join me in voting YES on Question 1.