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Cynthia Dagnal-Myron Headshot

Is Bob Dylan Black?

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Didn't believe it at first, that someone had pressed charges against Bob Dylan had for something he said.

I was sure it was an article from The Onion or some other satirical source that had gotten twisted in the Twitterverse. But then I found articles about it from pretty reliable sources all over the Net.

The upshot was that an organization called the Representative Council of the Croatian Community and Institutions had pressed charges against Dylan for "public injury" and "incitement to hatred." And my first reaction, as a citizen of a country where almost anyone can say almost anything, was, "Really?"

I mean, first of all if they'd just let it lie, most of us would never have read what he said. Or cared. So by pressing charges, they caused a firestorm that sent the allegedly offensive quotes flying around the globe via the traditional and social media. A wee bit counterproductive, yes?

And second of all, no offense, but Bob Dylan isn't say, Barack Obama. As far as I know he's not a policy maker of any kind--a beloved singer of songs, yes, but his words carry very little weight in Washington.

So I thought, "Sticks and stones, people." He's an old man with a faulty filter. Chill.

And then I decided to find out exactly what he'd said. Here's a piece:

"This country is just too f--ked-up about color. It's a distraction. People at each other's throats just because they are of a different color. It's the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back -- or any neighborhood back. Or any anything back."

No problem there. I'm black. My parents used to take me South every summer from the mid-50's through the early 60's as a "reality check." I drank from "colored" fountains, used "colored" bathrooms. Had an uncle who was partially paralyzed when the Klan attacked.

In fact, when we went to see him and his wife in Mississippi, we had to beep the car horn in a particular way, or risk having our tires shot out by his wife when we turned off the highway onto the dirt road leading to their little farm house. Lest we be mistaken for the "men in white" making a return "visit."

I'd call being forced to live like that "the height of insanity." Point to Bob.

Here's another piece:

"Blacks know that some whites didn't want to give up slavery -- that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can't pretend they don't know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood."

I beg your pardon?

I will not be pressing any charges. I can't. This isn't France.

But I didn't know Bob Dylan was black. And knew what we thought or felt. I mean, I loved Paula Deen. And we know what she apparently did. Or said.

In fact, on one of those "find your long lost ancestors" shows, she found out her family had owned slaves for real, back in the day. And seemed totally mortified.

But I didn't "sense" that she was "the enemy." She's not the enemy. She's said some dumb things, but I didn't feel threatened by any of it. She's a good cook. I use her recipes all the time. And not once have I felt as if one of her hoe cakes was going to explode in my face or anything.

But what's worse about the dumb thing that Dylan said is how paternalistic it is. Old story: white guy speaks for "colored" people. Or rather, white guy tells "colored" people what to think. Or do, or say--there are lots of variations on that theme.

Bob Dylan doesn't know what blacks can "sense" any more than I know what Serbs can sense. I'm not offended that he said what he said, but I'm a wee bit miffed that he felt he had the right to speak for blacks, Serbs and Croats with such authority.

But this is the country of Rush Limbaugh and a host of others whose words really do incite people to hatred. And we call it "entertainment." I'll never get used to it. But my black father and millions of other soldiers of all hues fought to make sure that even Rush could say whatever the hell he wanted to say forever.

This is America. Home of the brave, land of the free. Sort of. Rumors of a "post racial" America are a bit pre-mature. Those who point to Obama's two terms as proof of how far we've come must keep in mind how Obama has been treated throughout both of those terms as proof of how far we still have to go.

But we can say pretty much whatever we want. And I'm glad.

So, I'm a little mad atcha, Bob. But my dad fought for you, too. And had to deal with a whole lotta racism to do it, back in WWII.

So I hear ya'. But let me speak for myself from now on, okay?

Cynthia Dagnal-Myron's book of essays, The Keka Collection, can be purchased on