It’s debatable whether or not Christopher Columbus was a racist or had anything to do with racism at all. It’s also debatable whether or not he was actually Italian, as some historians point out that his roots were actually Sephardic Spanish/Jewish. Nevertheless, Italian Americans embrace Columbus as a hero who represents their culture both as americans and as people of Italian descent.

So when the Scotch Plains town council passed a motion to keep the tribute standing outside the town hall, they did the right thing. Columbus has been throughout history a symbol of the discovery of America and nothing more. Ironically, The Scotch Plains monument is not a statue of Christopher Columbus. It’s a marble hand holding a sphere with 3 iron flags inside which represent Columbus’ ships. It is dedicated to Columbus but doesn’t depict him in any way. It was paid for by privately raised funds and its design was conceived by soliciting ideas throughout schools. The winning design is the one that is on display today.

After the vote, according to an article on mycentraljersey.com, Mayor Alexander Smith pointed out that "To remove the monument due to what Christopher Columbus may or may not have done 500 years ago would be greatly disrespectful to all the current and past Scotch Plains Italian-Americans, who have contributed so much to make Scotch Plains what it is,” at the same time he explained that leaving the statue doesn’t mean that the town is turning a blind eye to the current racial justice movement. It just means that in America, we can disagree, but then we can vote to decide. In my opinion, removing the statue to mollify one group of people at the expense of another is unfair and un-American. The vote on Tuesday night as well as the thousands of letters and comments overwhelmingly in support of keeping the monument proves that the town of Scotch Plains agrees.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco. Any opinions expressed are Judi's own.

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