We support the permanent removal of Boston’s Christopher Columbus statue and the renaming the Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park.
OUR STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF THE PERMANENT REMOVAL OF THE CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS STATUE AND RENAMING OF PARK IN BOSTON
June 15, 2020 | Contact: ItaliansforIPD@gmail.com
Boston, MA – As citizens of Italian descent, we stand in solidarity with the thousands of Indigenous people from many tribal nations who live in the Boston area and are demanding the permanent removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus and the renaming of Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. We also strongly disagree with statements made to the North End/Waterfront Residents Association by Mayor Marty Walsh and Representative Aaron Michlewitz maintaining that the fate of the statue and name of the Park should be determined by North End residents. The Park is public space, under the jurisdiction of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, for the enjoyment of all people, not a select group of private residents. We also remind Mayor Walsh of his recent declaration of racism as a public health crisis, and his statements about the need for “conversations” about the “historic meaning” of the statue prior to any decision making about its reinstallation.
We have listened to the voices of Indigenous peoples and learned the complete history of Columbus, a man responsible for the genocide of the people of the Caribbean and the establishment of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. As a symbol of white supremacy, the Columbus statue is a source of deep pain for Indigenous peoples. It exacerbates the intergenerational trauma they carry with them today – the manifestation of centuries of settler colonial brutality endured by their ancestors. Indigenous leaders in the state have been trying for years to engage officials in conversations about the harmful impact of the statue and the heroification of Columbus. It is time that their perspectives are centered and their voices are heard.
Some Italian Americans assert that the rejection of Columbus is akin to erasing our history. We believe that any association with Columbus diminishes our culture and does not honor the struggles of our ancestors who endured discrimination and marginalization while assimilating in this country. Christopher Columbus did not make Italian Americans great. Our ancestors did. Because of them, we are now represented in almost every major institution in this country. Our cuisine, language and traditions are widely respected, and our entertainers, authors, and artists are household names. The knowledge – that we not only have the right to exist here, but also that our contributions have lasting value and impact – has been crucial to our healing process.
The recognition and status we now enjoy as Italian Americans are not privileges afforded to Native peoples. Studies show that they are essentially invisible in our society. This perception is caused by racial stereotypes that dehumanize them; white Americans’ lack of interaction with them; the perpetuation of false histories in schools (ie, founding myths of Columbus and Thanksgiving); and insufficient curricula on Indigenous cultures. For many Native peoples, the celebration of a man responsible for the genocide of their ancestors is another painful reminder of the ways in which they continue to be made invisible. By advocating for the permanent removal of the statue, we reject the misplaced adulation of Columbus and embrace the right of our Indigenous friends to exist and to heal.
While our ancestors have had much success in our fight for equitable treatment, we must not leave our Indigenous, Black and Brown brothers and sisters behind. Our actions are guided by the example of the many Italian Americans who fought for justice and equity. We are also guided by the values our ancestors held dear, fratellanza e comunita: brotherhood and community. The Park should be a place where everyone feels welcome. It should not be a source of pain. In the spirit of brotherhood and community, we call on our Italian American family to honor the wishes of the thousands of Indigenous people from many tribal nations who live in the Boston area to permanently remove the Columbus statue and rename the Park. By doing so, we correct false histories, begin to make amends for past atrocities, and create an environment where healing can begin.