Media coverage of Ukraine highlights bigotry


Photo courtesy of Avalon

Ukrainians evacuate and seek to find refuge in neighboring European countries. Many point out how European countries did not offer the same treatment to others such as Syrian or Afghani refugees

On Feb. 27, Russia started its attack on Ukraine over its possible decision to join NATO. The international community was outraged. International media had correspondents in Ukraine and all around that region. But even in times of crisis, people have not forgotten their bigotry and racism.

Usually, I am used to subtle racism, but some of these people didn’t even bother to try to be subtle. The Ukrainian deputy chief prosecutor was on BBC live television saying that it is “very emotional” for him because “European people with blue eyes and blonde hair” were being killed.

A CBS reporter said during his report that, “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 — I have to choose those words carefully, too — city, one where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”

There was an NBC news segment in which the reporter told the channel: “To put it bluntly, these are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from Ukraine. … They’re Christians, they’re white,” while on the U.K. channel ITV, a journalist commented: “The unthinkable has happened. … This is not a developing, third-world nation; this is Europe.”

When has “civilized” become synonymous with white. Why is it that when places like Afghanistan and Iraq have brutal wars it is seen as less important than when white countries do? When Gaza in Palestine was being struck with 625 missiles an hour by Israel in 2014, why was the media not outraged in the same way they were when Russia struck Ukraine with 625 missiles in two weeks?

When Ukrainian civilians were picking up arms to fight back against their Russian oppressors, they were deemed as “heroes” by western media. But when Palestinian children threw rocks to fight back at their oppressors they were deemed “terrorists.”

And this is not just media, we also see this in sports. For example, the world’s most-watched soccer league, the Premier League, had a moment of reflection and solidarity for fans, players, managers, match officials and club staff before all games. If you are familiar with FIFA you know how strict they have been with their policy of keeping politics out of the sport. Mohammed Aboutrika, the former Captain of the Egyptian National Football Team, was censured by FIFA in 2009 for merely displaying a shirt that read, in both Arabic and English, “Sympathize with Gaza”. But now not just players but entire leagues can support human rights causes abroad, why the hypocrisy?

I fully stand with Ukraine during the invasion but it is so hard to do this when there are many similar unfortunate events that happen all over the world yet they don’t receive the same attention or sympathy from people just because those who are affected are not white.