With everything that has been going on in the past 2 years, there has been tragedy after tragedy. All these things going on have caused people to hold the time-tested belief that in times of great tragedy and turmoil, people are able to showcase the best of themselves, able to empathize with their fellow man. This is seen in the recent turmoil between Russia and Ukraine, with America announcing an added $800 million in security assistance being sent to Ukraine. While that can be the case, I believe that this ability to empathize can have its own conditions and limitations. Especially when it comes to black people.
Russia had already started moving in on Ukraine back in 2021 when Vladamir Putin ordered the movement of troops and high artillery military equipment/weapons to Ukrainian borders. The United Nations has sent out orders when it comes to the economic punishment of Russia for its recent attacks on Ukraine. Seeing how people have been talking about everything going on with Ukraine and the recent casualties from the Russian attacks on Ukraine, it’s made me realize how even with the presence of war occurring, racism still gonna find a way. The clearest example of this has been the videos of black people being forced out of refugee trains and allowing white Ukrainians up first. Ukrainian officials stated that they would have women and children as a top priority in boarding refugee trains to escape the ongoing conflict. However, it seems that it has only applied to European Ukrainians, not all Ukrainians.
This added to the comments that news correspondents have made on the whole situation, it only reinforces the sad truth that empathy isn’t given until it’s a non-POC’s problem. One comment came from Kyiv Charlie D’Agata, a senior news correspondent for CBS News. “This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European city where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.” They aren’t even trying to hide what they mean by these statements anymore. It’s already challenging to escape from the conflict in Ukraine, add the barriers of race to this, it’s almost impossible for black people to find a sense of refuge. In Somalia, there has been numerous civilian casualties and child soldier recruitment from Islamist group Al-Shabab. These attacks have left citizens scattered and displaced. There is also the fact that the Somalian conflicts haven’t covered nearly as much, nor incited action from international governments. Why does western media not give the same concern and energy for non-European tragedies that it does for places like Ukraine?
It’s hard to feel any sort of pain with what’s been happening in Ukraine when there are multiple cases of racism that have been highlighted during all this. How am I supposed to listen to the comments of Ukrainian officials talking about the tragedy of this situation when it’s these same officials that couldn’t care less about the death of Black and Brown Ukrainians? It’s not even surprising to me anymore. White people don’t care about conflicts and grieve over tragic events until it’s about people that look like them.
The fact of the matter is that while what’s going on in Ukraine is tragic, the way that Ukraine is treating it’s black and brown citizens is a tragedy in of itself. I’m tired of the underhanded comments about how one would never expect a “civilized” place like Ukraine to be the center of violence. Especially when there are other countries that need the same empathy that’s being given to Ukraine. Where are the cries of empathy for them? Who is going to support them in their time of need?