Ukrainian borders and racism

Lina B.

Date published: Thu, 3 March 22

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has created an outpouring of support on social media for Ukrainian refugees. Many have commented on the West’s hypocrisy in the support for Ukrainian refugees yet intense racialization and discrimination against Afghan, Syrian, Haitian refugees; vocal outcry against Russian invasion as opposed to US and Western invasion of countries in South America and the Middle East. Although not the scope of this particular article, it is necessary to acknowledge that much of Western media’s analysis on Ukraine and Russia is heavily biased and hypocritical. 

With the invasian, almost a million Ukrainians have fled the country, fleeing to neighboring Poland, Hungary, Moldova, and Slovakia. Many have been welcomed with open arms by EU nations. Strikingly, many international students are facing trouble at the border of Ukraine and other countries. As flights are canceled with the onslaught of Russian invasion and many embassies closed down, international students and workers struggled leaving the counry.

Many African students fleeing Ukraine have narrated that they were stuck for days at crossings into bordering countries, in the cold without food and shelter. Many stated that they were held up by Ukrainian authorities who pushed them to ends of long lines and beat them, while allowing Ukrainians through.

The New York Times reports that Ms. Mbagwu, a Nigerian doctor, reached Warsaw but as she was crossing the border, officials shouted at her “only women and children can pass through,” stopping her, but allowing Ukrainian men through. She said, “And whenever a Black lady would try to pass, they said, ‘Our women first.’” 

The African Union reacted to the social media outcry regarding the treatment of Black people in Ukraine: “Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach of international law.”

As Black people and other POC are stopped at borders, the world is confronted with the fact that seemingly white, European refugees are happily welcomed while any refugee who is non-white is demonized, struck down, and stopped at borders. Acknowledging injustice in Ukraine requires an acknowledgement of injustice in Palestine, Syria, Kashmir, East Turkestan, Haiti, Somalia, and any nation where people fight for their basic human rights.