Why Don’t We Treat All Refugees as Though They Were Ukrainian?

Yves here. Sonali Kolhatkar is correct to excoriate the open racism in the preferential treatment of Ukrainian refugees, disconcertingly confirmed by too frequent approving comments by talking heads about how European they and their cities are.

And let us not forget that the reason Germany uncharacteristically was willing to accept large numbers of Syrian refugees (and then failed to make remotely adequate measures to help get them assimilated) was that Syria had very high educational standards, and the assumption was they’d make good additions to Germany’s labor force.

Of course, another reason to use bias as a quick and dirty sorting mechanism is there are way too many humanitarian crises in remote parts of the world, and it’s hard to tell who is a bona fide claimant versus what we like to call an economic refugee (putting aside the fact that in parts of Central America that have descended into gang warfare, expecting the locals to be able to earn a safe and reasonable living is a tad optimistic).

By Sonali Kolhatkar, the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute. Produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute

It was inevitable that when brown-skinned Afghan refugees fleeing war were turned away from European borders over the past few years, the callous actions of these governments would come back to haunt them. A whopping 1 million people have fled Ukraine from Russia’s violent invasion in the span of only a week. They are being welcomed—as refugees should be—into neighboring nations, inviting accusations of racist double standards.

Poland offers the most egregious example of national racism. Its government, whose nation borders Ukraine, has warmly welcomed traumatized Ukrainians, just months after turning away Afghans. If these optics weren’t bad enough, Polish nationalists have sought out people of color who are among the refugees fleeing Ukraine and violently attacked them. According to the Guardian, “three Indians were beaten up by a group of five men, leaving one of them hospitalized.” African nationals studying in Ukraine joined the exodus after Russia’s invasion, and have been stopped at the Polish border. Poland might as well erect a giant sign on its border declaring, “whites only.”

In elevating such disparate skin-tone-dependent attitudes toward refugees, Europe is giving its colonialist heritage a new lease on life. We see echoes today of the dehumanization that enabled European colonization of the Global South and the enslavement of generations.

It’s not just Poland. The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association has denounced the overtly racist language of many Western journalists, including American ones like Charlie D’Agata of CBS who said of Ukraine that “this isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades.” (In fact, Ukraine has seen plenty of conflict in the past years.)

D’Agata’s insertion of “with all due respect” was perhaps his belated realization that he was veering into dangerous territory by contrasting Ukrainian civilization against the presupposed barbarity of the darker nations. But then, he continued, saying, “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.”

Again, D’Agata likely realized as the words were escaping his mouth just how racist he was sounding. He needed to choose his words carefully in order to avoid the appearance of bias. He clearly failed. His later apology was not very convincing.

D’Agata exposed his personal allegiance with the Global North when he expressed “hope” against war breaking out in a nation whose people look like he does. The implied flip side is that he harbors no such hope when the conflict-ridden nations of the Global South are embroiled in violence.

Serena Parekh, professor of philosophy at Northeastern University in Boston, told me in a recent interview, “it is very human to feel connections to people that you perceive to be like you and to feel more remote from people you perceive as being not like you.” At the very least, this is a good reason why newsrooms across the United States need to diversify their staff.

Parekh, who has written two books, including No Refuge: Ethics and the Global Refugee Crisis and Refugees and the Ethics of Forced Displacement, says that one “assumption” she has heard justifying favorable treatment of the latest wave of refugees in Europe is that “Ukrainians are not terrorists and they are not criminals, and so we can let them in safely, without having to worry about screening them.” She calls such views “racialized assumptions… largely unsustainable by any evidence.”

Such assumptions are infectious. Social media platforms abound with images sporting the now-ubiquitous blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has emerged as a larger-than-life hero to the morally outraged. So invested are people in believing Zelenskyy’s heroism that many have shared a photo (including several of my own Facebook friends) of him in military fatigues as evidence of his courage in standing up to Russian militarism, when in fact the image was captured well before Russia’s invasion.

Similar expressions of solidarity with brown-skinned resisters of Western militarism or victims of Western wars have been far less common.

Pointing out the double standards of governments and the press at a time when Ukrainians are watching their nation getting utterly destroyed will inevitably spark accusations of insensitivity and of engaging irresponsibly in “whataboutism” to make a point.

But now is the time to clearly call out what human rights groups and independent journalists have for years been saying: that the U.S. and NATO-led wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and elsewhere are racist, and that the callous dismissals of the resulting humanitarian catastrophes are equally barbaric.

There’s another reason why brown-skinned refugees are seen as undesirable. Welcoming those people fleeing wars that the West has fomented would be an admission of Western culpability. Not only do Ukrainian refugees offer palatable infusions of whiteness into European nations, but they also enable governments to express self-righteous outrage at Russia’s imperialist ambitions and violent militarism. If Ukrainian refugees are evidence of Russian brutality, then Afghan and Iraqi refugees are evidence of the same kind of brutality on the part of the U.S. and NATO.

While Europe’s double standard toward refugees is on full display in Russia’s war on Ukraine, the United States is certainly not innocent either. Former President Donald Trump effectively slammed shut the door on refugeesduring his tenure and bolstered his anti-refugee policies with racist language.

President Joe Biden, who campaigned on reversing Trump’s anti-refugee rules, initially faltered on keeping his promise when he took office. But, even after the limits on allowing refugees into the U.S. were eventually lifted, few have been admitted into the country. Last year, when U.S. troops left Afghanistan at the mercy of the Taliban, Afghans were, naturally, desperate to flee. While the Biden administration laudably fast-tracked U.S. resettlement for Afghans, problems remain, with one refugee advocate calling the process, “kind of abysmal.”

Parekh says that decisions by Poland and other nations to admit fleeing Ukrainians with open arms, “[show] that the European Union can take in large numbers of asylum seekers and can do so in a relatively efficient way.”

In light of the sudden wellspring of compassion toward Ukrainian refugees emerging from Western nations, media, and the public, a simple thought experiment could protect governments, journalists, and us from further accusations of racist double standards: we could treat all refugees as though they were white-skinned Ukrainians, as though they were human.

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  1. Pat

    Similar to an unexpected election result of a few years ago and it’s ongoing aftermath, the crisis of the provoked invasion of Ukraine and the reactions and actions around it has been clarifying.

  2. Sound of the Suburbs

    We can’t even house and feed the current population.
    First things first.
    Once we’ve got that under our belts we can think about taking in refugees.

    We are not really racist.
    We treat all our homeless people with the same contempt, no matter what race they are.

    1. marym

      There have always been elite and non-elite factions in the US claiming – despite the country’s actual demographics and history – that the US is/should be a white Christian country. This has been reflected with varying degrees of intensity in domestic and immigration policies. It may be more accurate to say contemporary global issues of population size and sustainability are among the excuses for a racial and religious agenda.

      1. Sound of the Suburbs

        There are problems there, particularly in the US.
        The danger is that we get overwhelmed with the worlds problems, leaving us unable to fix anything.
        You need to break tasks up into manageable chunks you can deal with.

        1. Aumua

          That seems to assume that our rulers want to fix anything domestically, and that their hands are somehow tied because of “the worlds” problems (many of which the U.S. has created or exacerbated, but nevermind that).

  3. The Rev Kev

    There is one group whose fate that I would be curious to learn about would be that of Ukrainian gypsies as they are a group really between a rock and a hard place. I would assume that the men would be denied exit from the country due to the war but after reading this article, I wonder if Poland is letting their families evacuate to there either. I think that it was a BBC crew that featured them in a story about evacuations but what was not mentioned was how these people and their camps are attacked from time by those ultra-nationalists in the Ukraine because they are ‘impure’ or something.

  4. John B

    The Ukrainian refugee crisis is a good test of subconscious racial bias. At a visceral emotional level, how does one respond to video footage of Ukrainian refugee families vs, er, other sorts? Putin may have miscalculated the extent to which the EU and US public would react with sincere fear and horror to the invasion of Ukraine, given our relative indifference to other similar events. US politicians, in contrast, understand this well.

    1. Andrew Watts

      It shouldn’t be a surprise how non-white people who are fleeing Ukraine are faring. The ill treatment of non-white American soldiers stationed in Eastern Europe and Turkey is fairly well-known. It’s one of the threats to military cohesion that’ll make the US military resemble the armed forces of Austria-Hungary if it comes to a war.

      The rhetoric that D’Agata chose to use was that of a liberal imperialist / white nationalist with his mask off. Those uncivilized nations need to be uplifted by American forces invading their country! /sarc

  5. UnhingedBecauseLucid

    That’s appallingly cheap race baiting.
    #1. There is a cost to one country’s lifeboat, no matter how scientifically illiterate journalists such as Kolhatkar insist on the contrary. The greater the knowledge and education level difference ratio, the greater the cost generally.

    #2. Refugees normally go to neighboring region or countries. Economic migrants go to developed countries.
    Nothing wrong with that … as long as one stays mindful of carrying capacity and flow rate capacity.
    Especially as our clueless leaders and clueless population slowly comes to the realization that the planet has kept its initial diameter all those years and that resources being finite, depletion is a thing …(I know what concept) ; basically, acquiring migrants in an economy catapulted by the riding of the fossil fuel production explosion does not entail the same ramifications as in an economy undergoing structural contraction.

    #3. That tired old refrain about motivated migrants opening a restaurant, working ceaselessly to eke out a living is quite romantic, but as a compilation research study has shown (Boudarbat, Grenier, 2014) , for Canada at least, it is very unlikely the economic gain from immigration natives receive, **if there is any**, should be of real significance. It’s a net cost for the state.
    The conclusion is common sense: skilled labor import is a plus, mass migration isn’t.

    Ukraine is different. It’ a cultural sibling, neighbor and it’s being so violently UPROOTED from a similar way of life that they obviously cannot be prepared for and manage.
    Even Europe as a whole will stumble.
    It’s a cluster**** of biblical proportion.

    1. Pat

      Considering your criteria the only thing that really makes Ukraine “different” from numerous other refuge groups is the cultural sibling thing, I think we can narrow that down to looks like us and unlikely to be of a really different religion.

      Yes a situation that creates millions of refugees is a disaster. But let’s be clear that the biggest impediment to a resolution that didn’t force Russia to choose deeply endangering their own security or making that impossible by invading while they still could was a country that will take few or none of those refugees, the United States. And in this they have form, be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somali, just listing off the top of my head those we have violently uprooted, we never take that burden.

      Perhaps Europe should have kept that,and other possible disasters from this, in mind before joining or enabling our hubris.

      1. UnhingedBecauseLucid

        [“Considering your criteria the only thing that really makes Ukraine “different” from numerous other refuge groups is the cultural sibling thing, I think we can narrow that down to looks like us and unlikely to be of a really different religion.”]

        It did not go unnoticed that instead of acknowledging that real life makes for unpalatable, un-Hollywood-like realizations, it does not exempt you to counter valid arguments with some of your own.

        To be clear; when I say “Ukraine is different”, I am not implying that “it’s a plus” economically”… it’s an economic cataclysm; I am implying that it’s an inevitability in the circumstances.
        Conclusions, as the unfolding events demonstrates, are arrived at mechanically.

    2. Aumua

      Although conservatives have tried to co-opt the term ‘race baiting’ to mean talking about race issues or racism in almost any context, that is not really what it means. Strictly speaking, race baiting means deliberately stirring up racial hatred, which I don’t think this article is trying to do.

      1. UnhingedBecauseLucid

        [“noun. Britannica Dictionary definition of RACE–BAITING. [noncount] US, disapproving. : the unfair use of statements about race to try to influence the actions or attitudes of a particular group of people.”]

        Not native english speaker… heard the term before… but took the first definition that popped up to make sure.
        Not aware of pejorative connotations …

        In any case, I’m not a conservative, not a liberal, and not a centrist either; I actually laugh at them all (…when I’m in a good mood ;-)

        In any case, my argument still stand that the article made a cheap tone deaf point about the Afghans case:

        [“It was inevitable that when brown-skinned Afghan refugees fleeing war were turned away from European borders over the past few years, the callous actions of these governments would come back to haunt them. A whopping 1 million people have fled Ukraine from Russia’s violent invasion in the span of only a week. They are being welcomed—as refugees should be—into neighboring nations, inviting accusations of racist double standards.”]

        As for the Polish incident — I absolutely don’t dispute that racism and disgusting racist violence still exist.
        It’s everywhere on the planet.
        To be honest I didn’t even read the article past the first paragraph (before my first comment).
        I still think it’s a stupid point to make about the afghan case; but the further point the article was ultimately trying to make, that there’s a double standard and the
        [“…independent journalists have for years been saying: that the U.S. and NATO-led wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and elsewhere are racist, and that the callous dismissals of the resulting humanitarian catastrophes are equally barbaric.”]

        …I’d say probably has some truth to it for Afghanistan and Iraq…
        Syria, …maybe Obama had a go at it; unless you have to re-qualify the thing as western arrogance complexe; as for Somalia I don’t know enough to pronounce myself.
        There’s certainly imperialism, and certainly a double standard, everybody knows that.

        The moral of the story is:
        #1. Don’t start your article with a weak point.

        [“Pointing out the double standards of governments and the press at a time when Ukrainians are watching their nation getting utterly destroyed will inevitably spark accusations of insensitivity and of engaging irresponsibly in “whataboutism” to make a point.”]

        Well, I’m sorry but …yeah … pretty much.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The treatment of refugees is not a “weak point” to those who are affected. It’s easy to dismiss these issues when you have the luxury of not being much/at all subject to them.

      1. UnhingedBecauseLucid

        Would you prefer “cultural cousins” ?

        Culture here is used as all encompassing, including knowledge, education and yes … way of life.
        Like I said:

        [“The greater the knowledge and education level difference ratio, the greater the cost generally.”]

        Ukrainians, if the issue ever gets “resolved” or at least reach a new grey zone equilibrium will want to return home.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The issue is learning a new language. Achieving reasonable fluency is a barrier to integration.

          And most refugees do not return home.

      2. jv

        Yes, Yves, Ukraine is indeed a cultural sibling to CEE/EE countries. Heck, Western Ukraine used to be Poland and Austria.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Far more countries than that are taking on refugees. And they aren’t cultural siblings if Ukrainians have to learn a new language to be integrated.

      3. Europotrebitel

        While I don’t disagree with the overall point that there is a lot of racism underlying the issue, ‘cultural sibling’ is very much and very obviously a fact for the countries directly on the front lines. Poland should be obvious (huge numbers of Ukrainians there before this started), Moldova and Romania too for both historical and religious reasons, Slovakia and Hungary as well (traded borders and ethnic populations a few times).
        And I know this is a US-based blog, but I think it’s very easy to underestimate how common Ukrainian and Russian workers (and many now residents) are throughout Western Europe. Germany might be more obvious to some – but I’ve had personal experience with this phenomenon in (partial list) Austria, Portugal, Italy, Spain, France, and Greece. (This might be comparable to some cities in North America, eg New York, Chicago, Toronto).
        Also: as a fluent Russian speaker, can attest that a fairly high percentage of ‘Russian speakers’ in these countries are Ukrainians (over-represented for a number of reasons but economic reasons principally). [Language really not an issue for most – Russian a lingua franca – and hence many will miss the proportion of Ukrainians.]
        So yes – there’s racism. But the ‘cultural affinity’ thing should not be dismissed so easily – it doesn’t seem quite so farfetched in Europe, and often outright tangible. Other things like travel and direct personal ties and experience – with people who may go back frequently or split time – are more common than in USA.
        A bit more controversially, I’d add that what can be easily dismissed as ‘culture’ and hence irrelevant or a screen to excuse or hide outright racist or religious/ethnic supremacist views in the USA seems quite different on most of the continent. Important, I’m not arguing that this makes Europe ‘better’ (it has its own racism and prejudices that might well be worse). Just that the context is different.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          To unpack a bit: the Western Ukrainians would be culturally closest to Poles. Tell me how welcome Polish immigrants are in Germany and France and Italy.

          1. Europotribitel

            None of my comments above really have much specifically to do with Western Ukrainians. But that, in practice, there are already a LOT of Ukrainians (Russian speaking I’m most familiar with) throughout Europe. “How welcome?” I don’t know – please tell me how you measure that. But there were already quite a lot and not many obvious signs of serious issues.
            I’m not clear what your Polish immigrants point is – are you claiming that it is a significant issue now in those countries? Poland itself already has (reportedly) something like a million Ukrainians living/working there. (And I don’t have figures but don’t believe it’s primarily drawn by the ‘western ukrainian’ connections.)
            A separate point in this thread that keeps coming up is language, as if Ukrainians (of either language preference) will be at sea in the rest of Europe – but knowledge of English particularly among the young is increasingly widespread, and ‘some English’ even amongst older gens, and that goes a long way in Europe.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Reader have been making sweeping claims about “Europe” when identities in European are national or smaller ethnic groups.

              I am saying that Poland (and other countries bordering Ukraine) are likely to be the most receptive long-term. There are significant cultural differences between eastern and western Europe, and between the countries in each region. That is reinforced by language differences.

  6. Susan the other

    Thursday nite on DW there was a report of Nigerian (iirc) refugees, students, trying to cross into Poland and when they were obviously delayed they smartly decided to turn south and head for Romania where they were met by their own consulate or embassy and given passage back home. They were the healthiest looking bunch of Ukrainian refugees I’ve seen. Not the least bit rag-tag. In spite of walking for several days to get out.

  7. Dave in Austin

    On racism. Iattended an event yesterday in Austin where a number of American foreign policy spoke experts spoke. The big surprise for me was how a many of them spoke emotionally about the plight of the Ukrainians. Such academics and experts are not cynics by nature but they do learn to, as one said privately, (not an exact quote): “Leave your ethics and morals at the door when you’re doing analysis”. But this time, as opposed to the recent situations in Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam, emotions overruled analytical training.

    The usual explanation is “racism”, an explanation which is reserved in most public discourse for Whites in the west. I think this is true. But the same is true of the attitudes among Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Africans, Arabs and Jews. But that is not called racism. At the meeting it was interesting for me to listen to the presentations of folks with ethnic origins in China, Taiwan, Korea and all the other places which talented, multilingual, foreign-policy oriented first-generation Americans come from. I call it the Brzezinski problem although I could as easily name it after a first generation immigrant from Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Ireland or the old Jewish Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe. Humans are humans; they sympathize with people who look like themselves and remember historical wrongs for generations regardless of where they have moved to.

    Some of the best understanding of that issue comes from Whites married to girls from somewhere . Their kids are half Somewherians. In 1965 at the University of Rhode Island all the ROTC instructors and students were rarin’ to go on Vietnam except for one, plump, unlikely-to-be promoted, 18 year-in major with a Korean wife. He knew better. At the event I just attended, only two people even privately expressed reservations about the “Its all Putin’s fault” narrative. Both had foreign-born spouses. We happily exchanged gossip about how race worked in the spouses’ homeland.

    Many countries are caught “half in, half out” on sanctions. Take Israel, where two issues predominate.

    First, the Iran nuclear deal which the Russians are now saying they can’t support if it means no business dealings with Iran. Talk about trigger words; try nuclear proliferation. Jews around the world are rightly obsessed with the Iran issue and when the Russians heard the Ukrainian president muse about his nation’s right to have nucs the Russians went Full-Ivan and, as you may have noticed, are securing all the civilian reactors that might be mined for spent fuel to make a “dirty bomb. That mysterious litle finger of Russian troops that bypassed Mykolaiv north of the Crimea on the first day is now 20-30 miles from the South Ukraine nuclear plant.

    The second Israeli issue is an embarrassment of riches… the Oligarchs. To quote from the TimesofIsreal citing an unnamed Israeli official: “we must not be seen as a country through which sanctions can be circumvented.”

    The Oli’s arriving now will not be allowed to moor their yachts at Israeli ports. Hebrew-language media reports say that the Israel Airports Authority has instructed staff at Ben Gurion Airport not to approve long-term parking of private jets belonging to US-sanctioned Russians to prevent them from being stashed in Israel in an attempt to bypass sanctions. Optics Uber Alles.

    Again, citing Israeli sources which can’t exactly be called antisemitic, 1/3 of the Russian-Ukrainian Oligarchs are Jewish as are 30,000 of the 100,000 Russians with more than one million in liquid assets. And 25,000 of those 30,000 are among the 30,000 liquid millionaires in Moscow. The money is flowing out via Turkey to Cyprus as usual. But fear of sanctions has led to a huge flow into the non-sanction UAE, especially Dubai, which is beginning to look like the Rick’s Cafe of our era. North Tel Aviv real estate prices are going through the roof.

    Secretary of State Blinken, who nobody shook hands with at the State of the Union address, is in Poland and going to Moldova and the three Baltic republics. No mention of Hungary, Romania and Slovakia which also border the Ukraine and seem to be resisting the “truck American weapons to the border” coalition.

  8. PDC

    Racism is present everywere and difficult to quantify. There are a lot of rankings and maps to be found on the Internet… To my surprise, India comes usually about first. How reliable these rankings are, it’s anybody’s guess… But I suggest to have a look anyway before drawing conclusions.

  9. Synoia

    The answer to the Rhetorical question is as clear as Black and White.

    I’d bet that Ukrainian Refugees to the US would be better treated than people of African descent in Alabama Or N Carolina.

      1. Jokerstein

        Late to the party, but this comment brought to my mind the song “Rednecks” by Randy Newman:

        Yes, he’s free to be put in a cage
        In Harlem in New York City
        And he’s free to be put in a cage on the South-Side of Chicago
        And the West-Side
        And he’s free to be put in a cage in Hough in Cleveland
        And he’s free to be put in a cage in East St. Louis
        And he’s free to be put in a cage in Fillmore in San Francisco
        And he’s free to be put in a cage in Roxbury in Boston

  10. Jack

    There are bound to be some baddies running from the Russians. Perhaps we should think back to the Mariel boatlift

  11. Anthony G Stegman

    I’m only slightly ashamed that I watch CBS Mornings from 7am to 9am Monday through Friday. Charlie D’Agata and Holly Williams report nearly daily from Ukraine. Both use racist language in their reporting. It seems as if they simply can’t help themselves because of their personal world views. But the racism doesn’t stop with them. The anchor team also speaks in a racist manner, including Gayle King who often comes across as clueless in general. All of these talking heads come from privileged positions which prevent them from showing empathy towards the “Other”.

  12. Anthony G Stegman

    To some degree racism is inherent in all of us. It may be biological in nature. Perhaps tied to evolution. With this being said, we humans are also self aware and can take steps to mitigate our racist tendencies. If we are to evolve into a kinder and gentler specie we will need to learn to respect and accommodate those who don’t look and act like us, as “they” have as much of a right to pursue their dreams as we do.

  13. soylentgreensfan

    And the comment section continues it’s rightward drift.

    The odious comments here are leading to a distinct market for lemons type death spiral…

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m appalled too. The site is being trolled big time. I ripped one out and banned several other posters.

      Just so you know the offensive ones were from newbies.

  14. Darthbobber

    Poland is just hoist with its own anti-Russian petard here. They pretty much have to “warmly welcome” the Ukrainians officially. But if they aren’t gone again fairly rapidly I suspect the populace will not for long treat the Ukrainians “like Ukrainians”.

    1. Palaver

      It will matter less what Americans think in the future. Many Arabs immediately spotted our hypocrisy and that affects American soft power which has diminished greatly leading to more business with the devils they don’t know, China.

      Amazingly, the West fought so hard to lower the Iron Curtain only to voluntarily hoist it back up. It seems as though we are far more committed to isolationism now that open markets died on its crusade to “liberalize” the Second World and sent back a bastard son. Part 2 in the new Cold War is Corporate Financial Capitalism versus State Industrial Capitalism. While we hold a technological advantage, that could change quickly.

  15. Darthbobber

    Fascinating that equating European with civilized is so deeply embedded that these exemplars of the pmc variant of woke still reflexively do it without seemingly any cognitive dissonance whatsoever.

    And of course the question of whether Russia really counts as European and therefore civilized or is just a subset of threatening hordes from the east has greatly exercised Euro-American politicoes and pseudointellectuals for a couple of centuries.

  16. YY

    I haven’t had the desire to go to the Guardian (ever since Assange double cross and the BS syrian coverage) but a link found me reading, “They are ‘civilised’ and ‘look like us the racist coverage of Ukraine”
    by Moustafa Bayoumi. Well written, more or less on the same issue.

  17. arte

    At the moment, you do get the feeling that Lukashenko’s ferrying of refugees to the borders of Poland late last year using those “one-way visas” was not just the usual low level hybrid warfare of the past years, but a cynical attempt to deplete Ukraine’s neighbours’ humanitarian resources – as well as to split the opinion there, and within the EU – before the invasion started. I do know that at the time there were not insignificant protests in Poland about the fate of the refugees and the shame of Poland.

    For the Central and Eastern Europeans who are actually involved in this, it seems to me that the difference is not so much race, but the fact that one was considered to be Russian bullshit, just enacted by Belarus – now shown to be so firmly in the Russian camp – while the other is a local refugee crisis precipitated by, well, the sudden reminder that under the velvet glove of Russian bullshit there still is the same old iron gauntlet of power politics.

    Meanwhile, the history of the Iron Curtain countries is still in living memory for the people there, so the knowledge of NATO bullshit farther away doesn’t really matter for the moment.

  18. Keith McClary

    More civilians have been killed by American bombing in Laos in the last 10 years than have died in the Ukraine conflict.

    1. JBird4049

      There are a lot of unexploded bombs and mines in Laos (and Cambodia and Vietnam) but over ten thousand casualties from them in the last decade? That seems a bit much. I mean people still die from unexploded shells from the First World War in France so it’s possible I guess. But from what I can find there has “only” been twenty thousand deaths since the war ended. While that is almost certainly an undercount and the loss of farmland has been a big problem, the actual numbers are bad enough without exaggeration.

      What annoys me is that the United States has been destroying the economies and the environment from México to Central America to Southeast Asia to much of the Middle East without acknowledging that fact. I am angry at all the undocumented people taking jobs and driving wages down, but what is some dirt poor Honduran or Mexican farmer supposed to do when their farms are destroyed by American policies including creating and supporting the corrupt, often murderous, governments, oligarchs, and gangs?

      The United States and Western Europe pushed NATO to the Russian border despite the acknowledged agreement that it was to go no further than Germany’s eastern border as well as meddling in the government and economy of Ukraine including fostering corruption. Really, our government destroyed the economies of Eastern Europe including Russia’s, broke agreements, and deliberately created the conditions for a war. Sorry, Putin should not have invaded Ukraine, but for both historical reasons and the current actions of the United States and Europe he has some solid reasons for doing so. Much, much better than anything that America has had for its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.

      Of course, the countries that have been destroyed and sending refugees to us are full of brown people. That seems to make it easier to justify or just forget what has been done. Other than Ukraine of course. Then it is all the evil Russians’ fault.

      1. Keith McClary

        I meant the current Russian operation in Ukraine. (Here I mean “operation” as in US-speak.)

  19. ghiggler

    Yeah, sure. like calls to like, so it is easier to accept Ukrainian refugees into Europe than those who look different, and this is certainly racist in effect. But overall, the situation is more complex.

    Whether true or not, the Ukrainian refugees are considered temporary. The expectation is that they will want to and be able to go home once hostilities end. They are for now considered guests, in some cases directly so in individual’s homes.

    A country accepting refugees, but unwilling or unable to integrate them, will set up refugee camps to keep them “separate but (un)equal.”

    The UN refugee Agency gives a global overview, but its US charity gives more specific information on the five largest refugee camps in the world. The Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya holds Sudanese refugees, the Dadaab complex, also in Kenya, holds Somali refugees, the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan has Syrian refugees, the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh has Rohingya refugees, and the Um Rakuba refugee camp in Sudan has Tigrayan refugees. This does not include Palestinian refugees – for the simple reason that they are covered by a different UN Agency. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for palestine refugees in the near east identifies 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This does also not include Venuzuelans, who are considered displaced persons rather than refugees.

    Syrian refugees are a particularly interesting examples: I would not expect them to be able to quickly want to or be able to return to homes in Syria. From the sources above, there are are about 6.7 million Syrian refugees. This is the largest single source of refugees in the world (second are the 4 million displaced from Venezuela). The Za’atari camp in Jordan has about 76,000. This implies that the vast majority of Syrians have been integrated into their various host countries to at least some extent.

  20. Adam Eran

    A Hispanic woman of my acquaintance asks where all the sympathy is for the brown refugees coming from south of the border. The blond, blue-eyed Ukrainians get the sympathy while brown families are caged and deported. Even worse: lots of them come north because the predator state–the U.S.–is attacking their politics, or their economies. Between 1798 and 1994 the U.S. is responsible for 41 changes of government south of its borders. In the wake of NAFTA, which shipped subsidized Iowa corn to Mexico, Mexican median real income declined 34%, something not seen in the U.S. since the Great Depression.

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