With so-called Columbus Day upon us, I need us to reflect as a community on our values in the context of Westerly’s attachment to the holiday and to the statue outside the library. Nationwide, people are deciding the old idols to white supremacy and genocide cannot stand any more. Columbus was removed in Norwich, Providence, and New London. I cannot wait for Westerly to join them.
I won’t debate whether to remove the statue. I won’t go into history — indigenous communities have been telling us for 500 years about Columbus’ crimes of genocide, human trafficking, and the long brutal era of colonial occupation he helped create. It is abundantly clear that Columbus was not the hero he is made out to be. We absolutely should not be honoring him in stone or otherwise. Instead, I want to talk about what to do once Columbus is gone. I am born and raised in Westerly, Italian-American. All the men in my family belong to the Knights of Columbus. I know we love our families and communities, we are infinitely generous and hospitable, and we take care of each other. We aren’t people who should want to defend a murderer.
If we took an honest look at history, we could start to acknowledge our complicity in the genocide and racial oppression that have defined this country from its inception and move into solidarity with indigenous communities. We might be able to act on the values that we actually have.