What we have discovered during our campaign is that you don’t have to be Italian to support Columbus Day.
Many immigrants and descendants of recent immigrants identify with Columbus Day because Columbus opened the Americas to immigration and the opportunity for a new life. Early in our campaign, we received a donation from a recent immigrant to the US, a landscaper mowing lawns on Linden Street, who saw one of our signs and wrote, “Thank you for doing this!” This is how Columbus should be remembered today—as the father of American immigration.
Observing Columbus Day does not dishonor Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples already have a national holiday. The Friday after Thanksgiving was established as Native American Heritage Day in 2009 by President Barack Obama. It is a civil holiday that coincides with National Native American Heritage Month in November. Let’s rename this holiday Indigenous Peoples Day in Wellesley and work to have it made into a federal holiday for Indigenous Peoples.
Racism, bias, and intolerance have no place in Wellesley, and we welcome the Select Board’s new anti-racist and anti-bias pledge. During our campaign, we experienced systematic sign theft on a scale unprecedented in Wellesley. We have received hate mail and seen racist social media posts about Italian Americans. We have to ask: Why is there is so much hate and intolerance in Wellesley, and why is this directed at Italian Americans? We now have an inkling of what our immigrant forebears experienced— feeling unwelcome.
Italian Americans, like many immigrant groups, share a common heritage of bias, injustice, and mistreatment. It is in our DNA and cannot be easily forgotten or erased. Remembering our past helps us to be more compassionate in the present.
Columbus Day represents immigration and, by extension, diversity and multiculturalism. As an Italian American, I could envision renaming Columbus Day to Immigration Day on the second Monday in October. Doing this would honor Italian Americans and all immigrants—both past and present—to our land on an annual basis. This would expand on the original purpose of Columbus Day and enhance it. It would rename, but it would not abolish or replace. This is not unlike Armistice Day being renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to honor those who served in World War II, in addition to the dough boys who served in World War I. Today, Veterans Day honors all Americans who serve our country. Columbus Day could also enjoy an expanded sense of purpose, by honoring all immigrants to our land. In the renowned tradition of Italian hospitality, our table is large, and we always set a place for one more.
In summary, Wellesley has two national holidays at its disposal. Columbus Day, which is observed on the second Monday in October, is a federal holiday honoring Italian Americans and, by extension, all immigrants to our land. Native American Heritage Day, which is observed on the Friday after Thanksgiving, is a civil holiday to honor Indigenous Peoples, the first peoples of our land. Observing the original purposes of these two holidays would be the kind and reasonable way to honor our common humanity. Let’s use these two days wisely so that everyone wins. Let Wellesley lead the way forward.
Donna Maria Ticchi