Raymond Xie, Westford Resident
On May 2, Westford voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a federal holiday in Westford. Columbus Day was established after 11 Italians were lynched in New Orleans in 1891. President Benjamin Harrison declared “Columbus Day” the following year to honor the contributions of Italians and Italian Americans in the U.S.
Both Italian Americans and Indigenous people have been victims of atrocities in the country’s history, as have many other groups. As a Chinese American, I’m aware of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which discriminated against Chinese people for many years. However, we should also remember the progress that has been made in social justice in the U.S. For example, the country fought a bloody war to end slavery, and people of different races and backgrounds all sacrificed for that cause. America has become one of the freest countries in the world, with equal opportunities protected by law.
Moreover, the character of Columbus needs more debate and study. If you read the 2012 award-winning book “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem” by Carol Delaney, professor emerita at Stanford University, you will understand the true motives of Columbus’s voyages, how he befriended the native people, traded with them, and respectfully interacted with them. It was Columbus’s crew who disobeyed his strict orders and caused harm to the natives, which eventually led to their own deaths.
What makes the country great is the principle of grace and forgiveness. I could have demanded the removal of the statue of President Chester A. Arthur in New York City because he signed the Chinese Exclusion Act. However, I can also choose to forgive and recognize the freedom I enjoy in this great country compared to other parts of the world.
Let’s not allow Columbus Day to divide us. We can choose to celebrate both holidays or enact a new one if necessary. Let’s appreciate our history fully, acknowledging its flaws while recognizing that it is still an exceptional and proud story.
Disclaimer: If you would like to submit a letter to the editor, contact managing editor Ben Domaingue at firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters to the editor are reviewed and published at the discretion of the editor. Letters to the editor do not necessarily represent the opinions of WestfordCAT or its employees. WestfordCAT retains the right to refuse any letter to the editor for publication as it deems necessary.