Disgracefully, the Boston Athletic Association, the organization that runs the Boston Marathon, has joined the chorus of those who are blatantly discriminating against Italian-Americans and anyone who admires Christopher Columbus. Because the race this year falls on Columbus Day, which has wrongfully been obliterated and replaced with “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in some places, the organization decided to grovel at the feet of the Indigenous community while completely ignoring all other ethnic groups, cultures, and perspectives. Here is an email that I wrote to them:
Dear Boston Athletic Association,
I am a lifelong resident of the Boston area who has always enjoyed watching the Boston Marathon. I am writing to share how hurt and disappointed I am with your decision to pay special recognition to Indigenous Peoples’ Day and to the Indigenous community, while completely ignoring Columbus Day and the Italian-American community.
On your website, you note that October 11 is “recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in cities and towns on the marathon route,” but make no mention of the fact that this date is also Columbus Day, a holiday that is extremely important to Italian-Americans, or the fact that October is Italian-American Heritage Month. You issued an apology to “all Indigenous people who have felt unheard” but have made no mention of any Italian-Americans who may have felt unheard. Plans for Marathon day include featuring past and present runners of Indigenous descent, but no runners of Italian descent, as well as the creation of a mural that expresses “gratitude to the history of Indigenous runners of the Boston Marathon past and present,” but no works of art relating to Italian runners. Additionally, the BAA has donated $10,000 to WINGS of America, an organization that helps young Indigenous people, and $20,000 to an Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration in Newton, but to my knowledge the BAA has not donated to any Columbus Day celebrations or any organizations that help Italian-Americans.
Your decisions with regard to Indigenous Peoples’ Day were probably motivated by concerns about diversity and inclusion, but they are actually discriminatory, intolerant, and completely antithetical to the ideas of diversity and inclusion. Over the past year and a half, the Italian-American community has really been hurting due to the vicious attacks on statues of Christopher Columbus, one of our cultural heroes. Instead of acknowledging our community and the trauma and pain that we have suffered, the BAA chose to inflict further pain on me and my fellow Italian-Americans by excluding us.
The BAA’s actions with regard to Indigenous Peoples’ Day send the message that people like me are not welcomed or valued. As a result, I will not be watching the Boston Marathon this year. It might be too late to change the plans for this year’s Boston Marathon, but I hope that at future Marathons, the BAA will treat all cultures equally instead of singling some out for special recognition while excluding others.