A Croatian group based in France is suing singer-songwriter Bob Dylan for racism after he made comments to the French edition of Rolling Stone regarding tense relations between Serbians and Croatians.
Awarded the French Legion of Honor in November, the 72-year-old singer-songwriter was a prominent figure of the Civil Rights Movement in America during the 1960s.
In the interview, printed last year, Dylan was asked if he saw parallels between the U.S. today and the Civil War-era.
“This country is just too f**ked-up about color,” he said of America. “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.”
"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," he continued. "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."
Until the end of the Croatian War of Independence in 1991, both Croatia and Serbia were part of Yugoslavia.
Croats and Serbs fought against each other during World War II, with Croats largely supporting Nazi Germany. Croatia’s pro-Axis government wanted to ethnically cleanse Serbs from all its territories, calling them an inferior race of people. Tens of thousands of Serbs from Croatia, who were Orthodox Christians, died alongside Jews in concentration camps from 1941 to 1945.
The Council of Croats in France says Dylan’s comment is a racial slur and has filed suit against both Dylan and the magazine.
"It is an incitement to hatred," said Vlatko Marić, secretary general of the Council of Croats and member of the Croatian World Congress. "You cannot compare Croatian criminals to all Croats. But we have nothing against Rolling Stone magazine or Bob Dylan as a singer."
Strict free speech laws in Europe mean Dylan can be sued in France even though he is a U.S. citizen, according to Shalom Life.