On February 24th, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine with the end goal being occupation. The speculated reasons for this invasion vary, but Russian leaders have reported wanting to begin “demilitarizing and de-nazifying” Ukraine. Many people recognize that the reason is particularly strange considering Ukraine’s president is Jewish, but it is one of the very few reasons that Russia has provided. This has sparked a lot of news coverage as it could be the potential start of a World War.
With this coverage came alarming remarks from news reporters. Specifically, Charlie D’agata from CBS news stated on air, “But this [Ukraine] 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 — I have to choose those words carefully, too — city, where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen” After hearing this, people on the internet were rightfully outraged.
It brought attention to a string of racism-related events. Africans in Ukraine at the time of the invasion are being prevented from crossing the border into Poland with white Ukrainians. While the news is devastating, it is not surprising. Poland has a history of denying people of color passage across their border. The only exception is, of course, white people.
Presently, Poland is taking in Ukrainian refugees while building a 400 million Euro wall to keep out unwanted migrants. In this case, the unwanted migrants are racial minorities. Just last year (2021), Polish authorities prevented hundreds of primarily Asian and Middle Eastern refugees from entering the country. The apparent racism shown by Poland and proven by the Ukraine situation speaks to how white supremacy still rules our world.
This begs the question, “Why are people of color constantly undervalued, compared to white people?”. It’s not underground or hidden, it’s just the norm. 56% of Polish people do not want to accept refugees. A Polish election leader in 2015 even stated, “[refugees carry] very dangerous diseases long absent from Europe”. This tells us a lot about how Western countries perceive people of color.
To these governments, people of color are nothing but a burden to their country that they’d prefer to keep out. Border walls, rejection of refuge, deportation, and more, have been practices used by countries in order to decrease the amount of diversity. The common denominator within these practices seems to be the reliance on the alienation of racial minorities. The stereotypes that they face often encourage people to further defend themselves from people of color.
People have seen stereotypes targeted toward Black, Asian, and Latinx people. Police apprehend, beat, and kill unarmed black people simply out of the assumption that their blackness means they must be a criminal. Citing excuses like “resisting arrest” to paint them as violent. The Covid-19 virus originating from a bat in a cave is blamed on Asian people, thus resulting in hate crimes. Latinx people are labeled as criminals and freeloaders in order to gain support for anti-immigration practices.
White supremacy is still intensely present in modern-day society. If we continue to let bias whether it is unconscious or not, we will continue to prioritize white people and ignore people of color who need our support. We need to educate ourselves so we are not being manipulated by media that perpetuates harmful stereotypes and misinformation.