Each ‘Freudian slip’ that makes a comparison between Ukraine and ‘other’ conflicts in developing and underdeveloped countries is only the continuation of the historical internalised discrimination justified through pseudoscience and flawed rationale.
Wars may destroy and bury many things in the ground, but they can also surface many things. With the war initiated on February 23 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 ones based on ethnicity, skin tone, eye and hair colours.
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 broadcasted on the BBC, revealed racism and discrimination. The politician compared the 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 bias, which used to be latent, is now in the open, but let us not forget that such double standards have, unfortunately, a long history.
Darwin, for example, stated that evolution was continuous, with the white races being evolutionarily more advanced than the black races. This flawed rationale justified slavery by the west. 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 adapted by the more powerful or more adapted, a driving of inferior varieties into undesirable habitats, and occasionally, an extermination of inferior varieties”.
Sumner, who is considered the first sociologist in America, also went in Darwin’s and Spencer’s footsteps reasoned that slavery permitted select groups the freedom to construct and develop more refined cultures; thus, it advanced the cause of humanity. 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, that 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 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 used do, where we do not know what to do, people with obscure past, maybe terrorists.”
Racialisation has consequences
The racialisation of poverty and destitution has consequences. While the doors were open for the Ukrainians, many reports indicated that hundreds of African students studying in Ukraine were not allowed on the trains and remained stranded in the borders.
The aforementioned statements, made in front of millions of viewers, prove that despite the woke culture that developed in the last decade, discrimination has a life of its own and continues unabated. Each “Freudian slip” that makes a comparison between Ukraine and “other” conflicts in developing and underdeveloped 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 to Ukraine is tragic, but it is happening because the international community has failed to act on other ongoing conflicts worldwide because of the lack of “commonalities”.
Politicians and media personalities alike have to understand that unless every individual is considered equal, irrespective of ethnicity, colour, age, gender, or religion, wars have a long future ahead.
This article originally appeared in the analysis section of the Anadolu Agency website.