Dear Peter Cvjetanovic

Because you felt empowered to enter my state and a city I hold dear with a message of hate that ultimately took the lives of three innocent people, I am empowering myself to write directly to you, privately and publicly.

With the ugly photo of your hatred spread across the world, you now are trying to step away from the hate you brought, diluting your reality with the ridiculous notion that you somehow “care for all people.” You state in one article that “white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture.” Well, it’s clear that your white supremacist friends have brainwashed you, because American culture is based in white European culture. Our history is Euro-centric, our primary language is English, we are overwhelmingly European Christians and our legal system is based on English parliamentary law – what more recognition of the supremacy of white European culture do you want? The mistake you and all white supremacists make is confusing the mere presence of anything that ISN’T European as an infringement on your culture. You refuse to acknowledge that the right to be who and live whatever culture you want has always been within your reach, just like Dorothy’s ruby slippers.

I feel empowered to speak this way to you because, if the news isn’t fake, we share a heritage. I believe you are of Balkan descent, not sure which country your family comes from, perhaps Croatia or Serbia. At any rate we surely share Slavic genes. I am Balkan, an almost equal mix of Slovenian and Croatian background. My family first set foot in this country in the late 1900s, when my maternal great-grandfather arrived to work in the copper mines in Upper Michigan and Arizona. My grandfather and his brother were born in Michigan, but after my great-grandfather’s death in a mining accident in Arizona (how strange to know I have family buried in the Arizona desert), his wife and children returned to Slovenia. My grandfather never forgot his American roots, though. His goal was to return, and although World War I delayed the plan, he ultimately made good on his promise to himself. By then, the early 1920s, he had married and had two children, one of whom was my mother. He brought his wife and children to the U.S. in 1923 and was here to stay.

My grandfather was proud of his Slovenian heritage. He joined and ultimately became a leader of the Slovenian association in Calumet, Michigan. His family attended one of the many ethnic churches in Calumet. But he knew he wasn’t in Slovenia anymore, and demanded that his wife learn English and his children speak English at home. He understood that to come to a new country, you leave something behind to gain something new. Grandpa worked the mines until they closed in the Great Depression. My family was poor then, dirt poor, sustained by a little government and mining company assistance until the WPA brought work to the UP. He never gave up looking for work wherever it might be, and was lucky to find a job in a small factory in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland is where my mother met my dad and my own family story begins.

Cleveland has a large Balkan population, so many of my grandparents' and parents' friends shared our heritage. But, as is the case in all families, we didn’t stay put. Through marriage, partnership and adoption, I, my cousins and our kids after us joined people from many races and countries to our family. We are now Slovenian, Croatian, Finnish, Polish, German, English, Irish, Korean, Chinese, Puerto Rican and I’m sure much more. Our friends touch every race and ethnicity you can think of. And we, too, have enriched every person we touch. You know what? We have lost nothing in our diversity. I am as Slovenian and Croatian today as on the day I was born and I can be as Slovenian and Croatian as I want. But my life has been enriched beyond measure through my family’s diversity and that of my friends and colleagues.

Peter, you may never change your attitude about white supremacy. You may remain a hater all your life. But in sharing just a little of my family’s story with you, I hope you start looking at the incredible diversity of our country as a blessing and a treasure, not a threat. Instead of building walls around your story, share it with others who are different from you. I am sure you will find, as my family has, that our shared humanity is far more important than our differences.

Although you may dismiss my words and retreat to your protected Twitter account or Facebook page to have a good laugh, you will not escape the truth: You are not the future of America. The majority of white Americans, like me, reject your agenda. I sincerely hope you find another way to express your heritage than this hateful, murderous path.

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