Friday, July 04, 2008

Eugene Robinson on Black Patriotism

This morning I read this wonderful op-ed piece by Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post. I've been sitting on a post about it the rest of the day, trying to work up exactly what sort of commentary I'd like to run on it. The problem is, no matter what I think, no matter what I write, I can't seem to add to the post. So, instead, let me just encourage you: If you haven't read this, please do. Here's an excerpt:

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.

Like every citizen of every nation in the world, we live in a deeply flawed country. To say this, and to point out the flaws in our nation as they arise, isn't unpatriotic. It is, rather, the deepest act of patriotism we can engage in: to love our country enough to hope and strive for the best in it.

To claim that we already are who and what we ought to be is to deny the reality of our present and our past, and thus to trap us in a pattern of deeply engrained sin. To hold us in perpetual bondage to the mistakes we've made but won't admit to. To leave us forever clinging to a pattern of behavior that creates a great deal of suffering.

To refuse to admit that we've got problems is ultimately deeply pessimistic, because it is to refrain from hoping that we will ever be able to address those problems that we're afraid to admit exist.

Racism is one of those problems, a quintessentially but not uniquely American sin. As a nation we were built on the foundation of racism, constructed by slaves on land taken from an almost exterminated indigenous population. This racism is a part of our genetic inheritance. It is in the water we drink. It is in the air we breathe. And to say it isn't there is not only to deny the obvious, it is to remain captive to it.

Anyway, especially for those readers here who are, like me, white, please read and seriously consider what Robinson has to tell us about the patriotism of black Americans, the victims of a quintessentially American sin.

And, whether you intend to vote for Barack Obama or not, ask yourself why he must demonstrate a patriotism that would be assumed in any other candidate for the presidency of the United States.

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