By Nathaniel and Arielle Langer
As parents, one of our fundamental responsibilities is to help our children develop a sense of morality and to model the ideas and behaviors we value. All parents want to instill morals and principles that will last lifetimes and shape how our children interact with the world. While we do our best to take every opportunity to model good behaviors and values for our boys, we must acknowledge that society will exert a powerful influence that we cannot entirely control. This is why a holiday like Columbus Day bothers us as parents.
Celebrating Columbus Day promotes the racist narrative that Europeans were civilizers of Indigenous peoples. We cannot in good conscience teach this to our children. Christopher Columbus also personally condoned the raping of women and child separation. Horrifically, these actions still occur today, so there is no rational way to confine them to the past. We want our boys to learn that such actions are morally reprehensible and simply unacceptable, and there are abundant opportunities in the headlines of the past few years for them to learn otherwise. Columbus Day should not be one more. There is no historical context that makes such actions understandable, and we will never be okay with anyone implying to our children that excuses can be made for such atrocities.
In the United States, there are only a few holidays that close schools, and this makes those that do a large focus for our children. During the period leading up to a holiday, curiosity grows, children question why this day is different, and they ask about who or what we are honoring. Anyone who has spent time around small children knows the type of “why” questions they ask. When such questions relate to Veterans Day or Martin Luther King Jr Day, we know that teachers and parents alike can discuss the upcoming holiday in a way that affirms our values. In contrast, when Columbus Day approaches, we find ourselves celebrating a man we do not want to endorse as a role model for our boys.
Abandoning Columbus Day does not mean cancelling Columbus as a man or erasing his place in our collective history. History classes can and should continue to include lessons on Christopher Columbus and the arrival of Europeans in North America. He is a part of how our country came to be. While we detest many of his actions, Columbus will always be an important historical figure. However, his impact on history is not the metric we should use when deciding about this holiday. Continuing to celebrate Columbus Day necessarily frames him as a hero. The founding of our country is a complex story and one that our children should be taught in its entirety. Learning our collective history can be done in a way that acknowledges the past and affirms our values.
Wellesley, along with Massachusetts as a whole, has a long history of leading on issues of social justice, and this history is something of which we should all be truly proud. We hope that this issue will be one more source for that pride, both for ourselves, our community, and our boys. Fourteen states and numerous individual towns and cities across the United States have already made the switch to Indigenous Peoples Day. In Greater Boston, this includes our neighboring communities, such as Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville. Wellesley should join these and many other towns in Massachusetts that have already made the switch. On the second Monday of October, Wellesley should celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.
For our conscience and our children, please vote Yes on Question 1 on March 2, 2021.