When We All Had a Dream

When We All Had a Dream

By Wm. Dorich

In the 1940s and my youth, the American lexicon included such repugnant words as “Japs, Kikes, Niggers and Pollocks.” I remember those days—my father was an immigrant coal miner from Serbia, and I was automatically addressed by the bigoted word—“Hunky.”  My father was a refugee from former Yugoslavia in 1918 at the end of World War One and his people freed themselves from 400 years of Ottoman Muslim slavery.

Today, in more subtle ways, name calling still haunts modern society. In the contemporary context it has been easy for Americans to deny knowledge of the Holocaust as though Auschwitz which commemorates its 70th anniversary this month was a mere anomaly of history where tens of thousands were put to death—but they are naive, 278 million have been liquidated since Nuremberg.

Today, it is politically incorrect to attack Blacks, Asians, Arabs and homosexuals—but perfectly acceptable to attack a Serb—a name that has become synonymous with evil. Fifteen years after the dismemberment Civil Wars in the Balkans, terminology that demonizes Serbs with collective guilt still thrives in the media and by political leaders in Washington.  During those Civil Wars in the Balkans Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleberger said: “Serbs are not too smart,” and Richard Holbrooke unashamedly called Serbs “murderous assholes.” Morton Kondracke called Serbs “Bastards” on national television, while Senator Biden used a five minute interview on CNN to inform the world that Serbs were: “illiterates, degenerates, baby killers, rapists, butchers, cowards and Nazis.”  Imagine what he would have added with ten minutes. Like Al Sharpton today who resorts to racists terminology to divide people into categories of race, religion and color, the American dream is being trampled in a drive to get even or worse, to resort to reverse discrimination that flies in the face of major sports figures who earn tens of millions for their talent, black officials in Washington including the Supreme Court and blacks who are visible in the high ranks of the military, the police, the media and in films in spite of the movie Selma not including a nominated black actor or director while insultingly giving the film a “Best Picture nomination.” Will this level of “racism,” “discrimination,” and “exclusion” ever ends?

While I find this racial outrage a bit of a stretch I clearly remember growing up in the coalfields of West Virginia where my neighbors were not just black, but Greeks, Russians, Italians, Polish, Jews and Serbians.  Many blacks worked in the coalmines as well as the steel mills of Pittsburgh where many were so welcomed that they learned to speak the Serbian language.  You heard me right—blacks spoke the Serbian language. We were a little United Nations of the 1930s and 40’s when being multi-ethnic, multi-religious or multi-cultural taught us the lessons of compromising and getting along … somehow we all grew up and survived without killing each other.

Selma was not a symptom, it was a full-blown disease of manifest hatred by bigoted white politicians including Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, the grand “Exalted Cyclops” asshole of the KKK—the longest serving Senator in our government when he died in 2010 at 92. Somehow we all learned to change that dynamic and worked to improve racial relations.

As a double victim of Balkan genocide in which 17 of my relatives were burned to death in a Christian Serbian church in Vojnic, Croatia in 1942, I also lost the last 5 relatives of my name in 1995 who were too old and too sick to flee during “Operation Storm” in which 230,000 Serbians were ethnically cleansed from Croatia. I, Too, Have a Dream that my people will regain international respect in Serbia where for a thousand years they built 1,500 Orthodox Christian churches in an area the size of Los Angeles and where they fought in two World Wars as American allies, believing in freedom and democracy and that no man has the right rule another.

However, it’s not about color, race, origin of birth, or sex … it’s about mutual respect and full support of the law. If we have not learned those values in 239 years we are doomed to resort to violence.


William Dorich is the author of nine books, six on Balkan history. He is the recipient of The Order of St. Sava, the highest recognition bestowed on a layperson by the Holy Synod of Serbian Orthodox Bishops and An Award of Merit from the Serbian Bar Association of America. His articles have appeared in the International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post and in the Serbian press


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