Dylan has always been one of my favorite artists and was a great inspiration and comfort to me, especially when I was a teen.
That said, the comments for which he is being sued in France for “racism” are both instructive and disappointing.
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. (Source)
These comments are disappointing because they do more harm than good, they aren’t true, and they actually encourage ignorant “gut” reactions that are a major part of the problem.
They are instructive because they reveal how an accomplished artist who should know better can so easily buy into the semiotics of victimhood and preaching from that point of view in a way that makes the problem, such as it is, only worse. (I do realize that given the number of interviews Dylan gives and the looser nature of art than history, mistakes of this type are inevitable.)
His comments are further instructive in that they work a very shallow surface of historical and cultural semiotics when shallow semiotics are the bane of historical understanding and groups getting along. Dylan assertions are based on “skin color” and the absurd claim that some groups can “sense” what others have “in their blood.”
Here is a very short article that may help him rethink his comment that “…Jews can sense Nazi blood”—Stalin’s Jews: We mustn’t forget that some of greatest murderers of modern times were Jewish.
As mentioned, Dylan was and still is one of my favorite artists. His comments matter only because they come from him and seem to me exceptionally wrong and counterproductive. The Croatian lawsuit is asking only for an apology. I hope he gives it and says something much more profound and valuable than what he said in the interview in question.