Washington Post editor and columnist, Eugene Robinson, has won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his columns about the 2008 election.
One of his best was A Special Brand of Patriotism from July 4, 2008. It begins
Anyone who took U.S. history in high school ought to know that one of the five men killed in the Boston Massacre, the atrocity that helped ignite the American Revolution, was a runaway slave named Crispus Attucks. The question the history books rarely consider is: Why?
Think about it for a moment. For well over a century, British colonists in North America had practiced a particularly cruel brand of slavery, a system of bondage intended not just to exploit the labor of Africans but to crush their spirit as well. Backs were whipped and broken, families systematically separated, traditions erased, ancient languages silenced. Yet a black man — to many, nothing more than a piece of property — chose to stand and die with the patriots of Boston.
Barack Obama had been criticized for failure to wear a flag lapel pin.
It is not common, in my experience, for sitting U.S. senators to be questioned on their love of country — to be grilled about a flag pin, for example, or critiqued on the posture they assume when the national anthem is played. For an American who attains such high office, patriotism is generally assumed.
It seems that some people don’t want to give Obama the benefit of that assumption, however, and I have to wonder whether that’s because he’s black. And then I have to wonder why.
What’s unpatriotic is pretending that the past never happened. What’s unpatriotic is failing to acknowledge that we’ve struggled with race for nearly 400 years. What’s unpatriotic is relegating “black history” to the month of February when, really, it’s American history, without which this nation could never be what it is today.
My father, Harold I. Robinson, served in the Army during World War II and has lived to witness this transformative moment of possibility. My father-in-law, the late Edward R. Collins, was a sailor who saw action in the South Pacific; he rests at Arlington National Cemetery. I have no patience with anyone who thinks that patriots don’t have brown skin.
Congratulations, Mr. Robinson.