The United States should look in the mirror

Joseph Miano (
Mon, 29 Jun 1998 16:45:32 -0400

Dear Editor:

As I look more closely at the current situation in Kosovo, I am struck by
how closely the Serbian experience mirrors our own here in the United
States. Our minority was black; our Rugova, Dr. Martin Luther King. In the
final analysis both Albanians and blacks in America have suffered from
discrimination and both Albanians and blacks have often been their own worst
enemies in the search for equality under the law and in social practice.

Both white America of the 1960's and Serbia of the 1990's treated their
respective minorities with disdain and what one might call, disrespect. Yet
in the face of white oppression and mistreatment of blacks, Yugoslavia did
not send weapons to arm the poor American minorities- Yugoslavia like other
countries, stayed out of the sovereign affairs of another nation.

American reaction against the civil rights movement was strong and at times
vicious. White policemen and members of the National Guard gunned down
blacks in the streets. In 1968 clouds of smoke hung over the White House as
Washington and other cities burned. Hundreds were killed as the government
used its legitimate power to maintain order.

One of the striking differences to me between the American civil rights
movement and that of the Albanians today in Kosovo is that American blacks
understood the need for accomodation and moderation. Voting rights were a
huge issue to the civil rights movement. Likewise there was no attempt to
wrest control of the American South where in many areas a black majority was
held under the thumbs of the white minority.

The lesson that must be learned from this parallel is that there are no easy
answers. I guess it all boils down to money and greed. It seems that as
long as Yugoslavia held the captive markets of Eastern Europe, Serbs and
Albanians could live togehter in quasi-tranquility. But as the socialist
economy began to disintegrate, relations between the groups fell apart as

It is ironic that the only arena in which all gropus seem to get along in
these times is the area of crime. Drug traffickers can easily and happily do
business across ethnic and religious lines; blackmarketeers
work with the same ease. And the white collar criminals who are the real
mafia of the era all drink together as they debate how to carve up the booty
and spoils of their perfidious escapades.

The only differences between Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Clinton is that no one
has accused Milosevic of any great sexual adventures and Clinton's wife does
not have a party card. Neither of them has forgotten where the dining room
is; failed to attempt to aid his friends; or gone to jail for profiting from
his elected position.

It does not make a whole lot of sense.


Joe Miano