from the Pax Christi Anti-Racism Team
War is hell. And racism makes it even more so.
Some have observed, for example, that the attention being paid by the mainstream U.S. and European press to the evacuees from Ukraine seems qualitatively different from that paid to refugees from places like Iraq and Syria. Is it possible that the racial characteristics of Ukrainian people – largely white skinned, blue-eyed people – may have touched a soft spot in white people, leading them to identify with, and sympathize with, those refugees to a greater degree than they do with darker-skinned refugees in other, similarly devastating, conflicts?
Moreover, we see a great outpouring of understandable sympathy for Ukrainian refugees by citizens of the United States. Yet, many in the U.S. haven’t mustered the same amount of sympathy for the brown-skinned families also fleeing terrible violence, desperately seeking shelter and safety at the United States border.
But there is an even deeper danger posed by racism, in the context of war. Racial differentials are reported to be playing out in the internal-evacuation process, as people stream to the Ukrainian border, desperately fleeing the Russian attacks.
On February 28, 2022, during a televised special session of the United Nations Security Council on the subject of Ukraine, the Ambassador of Kenya expressed deep concern (see minutes 35:05-36:29) over reports that African nationals and other people of African descent in Ukraine were experiencing racist treatment in their attempts to flee to safety. That grave injustice was also noted by the Ambassador of Ghana (minutes 1:05-1:07); by the Ambassador of Gabon (minutes 1:07-1:10); and by the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (minutes 1:10-1:12).
Other media have similarly reported that Black Africans and other People of Color living in Ukraine, racing to the border in a desperate attempt to escape the bombardments, have found their attempts to flee the country stymied. There are accounts of African people and other People of Color being refused the right to board departing buses and trains, while white people are permitted to leave. Dark-skinned people, including students in Ukrainian universities, medical schools, and other institutions, have encountered unexpected obstacles at the border, and inexplicably long delays, when trying to leave the country.
Racism is not an inconvenience. It is deadly.
Racism sets us apart from each other.
Leaving some languishing.
Leaving some dying, while others flee to safety. Racism kills no less than bombs do.