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Surfacing of discrimination

March 2, 2022 at 5:05 pm

Ukrainians living in Turkiye’s Antalya gather outside Consulate General of Russia for a protest against Russian attacks on Ukraine, in Antalya, Turkiye on March 1, 2022 [Mustafa Çiftçi / Anadolu Agency]

Wars may destroy and bury many things in the ground, but they can also surface many things. With the war initiated on 23 February by Russia against Ukraine, several comments made by international correspondents have revealed latent racism and discrimination in the 21st century, which classifies victims into “worthy” and “unworthy” based on ethnicity, skin tone, eye and hair colour.

Reporting the Ukrainians’ pain and suffering has, of course, the highest priority, but such coverage should not be presented to the audiences wrapped in racist frames. For instance, the statement made by former deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine, David Sakvarelidze, which was broadcast on the BBC, revealed racism and discrimination. The politician compared people in Iraq and Afghanistan, stating how Ukraine is more “civilised.” He then said, “It is very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed by Putin’s missiles and rockets.”

Double standards have long history

In another example, one journalist said on CNBC, “These are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from neighbouring Ukraine … these are Christians, these are white, they are very similar.”

This previously hidden bias has suddenly come to light, but let us not forget that such double standards have a long history.

Darwin, for example, believed that evolution was continuous and white races were more evolved than the black ones. This flawed rationale was used by the West to justify slavery. Herbert Spencer, an anthropologist who coined the term “survival of the fittest,” used Darwin’s theory to argue that human societies work along similar lines as the biological species referred to in the natural selection principle. Consequently, those who are weak or unable to adapt should not have a place in the competition. These erroneous perspectives justified race wars:

“A continuous over-running of the less powerful or less adopted by the more powerful or more adapted, a driving of inferior varieties into undesirable habitats, and occasionally, an extermination of inferior varieties”

Coverage of Ukraine Refugee crisis is 'racist' - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Coverage of Ukraine Refugee crisis is ‘racist’ – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

‘Civilised’ discourse

Sumner, who is considered the first sociologist in America, also went in Darwin’s and, following in Spencer’s footsteps, he reasoned that slavery gave certain populations the freedom to create and build more sophisticated cultures, therefore furthering humanity’s cause. His view on the American class was representative of the natural order.

Decades later, we witness this separation in our modern-day world. Western media continues to give room to expressions of White supremacy. For example, CBS News senior foreign correspondent, Charlie D’Agata, stated that “Ukraine isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, which has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilised, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully, too – city, where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”

Similarly, while audiences watched videos of Ukrainian people preparing Molotov cocktails in news channels with specific details on making them more effective, correspondent, Lucy Watson, from ITV chose to comment on these segments along racist lines. She said, “Now the unthinkable has happened to them. This is not a developing third world nation. This is Europe.”

What is more, Central European states have been providing access to Ukrainian civilians crossing the border with Poland, establishing facilities to provide food, shelter and medical service to process the flux of refugees. When asked about accepting these refugees, the Bulgarian Prime Minister replied: “These are not the refugees we have been used to. These are people who are Europeans, so we, and all other EU countries, are ready to welcome them. These are intelligent people; educated people … some of them are IT specialists, highly qualified. In other words, this is not the refugee wave we have been used to, where we do not know what to do, people with obscure past, maybe terrorists.”

Racialisation has consequences

The racialisation of poverty and deprivation has consequences. While the doors were open to Ukrainians, various sources indicated that hundreds of African students studying in Ukraine were not allowed to board the trains and were left stranded at the border.

The statements mentioned above, expressed in front of millions of viewers, demonstrate that, despite the emergence of a woke culture in the previous decade, discrimination has taken on a life of its own and persists unabated. Each “Freudian slip” that makes a comparison between Ukraine and “other” conflicts in developing and under-developed countries is only the continuation of the historical internalised discrimination justified through pseudoscience and flawed rationale. Through these remarks, we are forced to believe that black/brown people naturally deserve the atrocities they face, because they are less worthy of living.

There is nothing civilised about war. No one deserves to be forced out of one’s country; no one deserves to die because of a political conflict in which civilians had little bearing. What is happening in Ukraine is tragic, but it is happening as a result of the international community’s failure to act on other continuing crises across the world due to a lack of “commonalities.”

Politicians and public figures must recognise that wars have a long future ahead, unless all people are treated equally, regardless of ethnicity, colour, age, gender or religion.

This article was syndicated from Anadolu News Agency.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.