Tough week for a black African watching events in Ukraine

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By Tapiwa Gomo

FOLLOWING months, if not years, of simmering tensions, Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 putting the world on the edge of a potential world war. There are many reasons why Russia invaded Ukraine — a relatively democratic country of 44 million people.

Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has long expressed its discomfort over Ukraine’s intentions to join the European Union (EU) bloc and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) — an intergovernmental military alliance between 28 European countries and two North American countries — that is Canada and the United States of America.

This is because at its inception in 1949, Nato Alliance’s main objective was to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.

In simpler terms Nato was created to keep an eye on Russia and at the heart of the Nato alliance is article 5 — an agreement that an armed attack on one member of the Alliance is considered an attack on all Nato member States and they will be compelled to defend one another.

Ukraine’s intention to join the EU is within its right as a sovereign State and it is good for its own security and protection.

Ukraine needs that but Russia sees the move as a neighbour who is bringing bees and snakes next to his or her homestead.

Russia has its own reasons to be concerned and it has since February 24 attacked Ukraine by air, land and sea causing massive civilian casualties and population movement in and out of the country.

Wars at this time and age must not be condoned, but the debate has raged on whether Russia is justified in invading a sovereign State over geopolitical and security concerns.

Part of the debate has revealed some narrative inconsistencies and racist exceptionalism making it hard to pick a position.

The first of these inconsistencies arise from the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 which almost plunged the world into a nuclear war when the Soviet Union (Russia) established a missile launch site at San Cristobal in Cuba — just 500 kilometres from the shores of the USA.

While Cuba, just like Ukraine, is a sovereign country, the situation resulted in a confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union which escalated into an international crisis.

There was no condemnation of the US the same way Russia has been sanctioned and condemned today.

The second inconsistency lies in what looks like overwhelming support for the people of Ukraine.

War is horrible and must be condemned whenever and wherever it happens.

Such support has not been extended to the people facing the same wrath of wars in other countries — mainly in Africa and the Middle East.

Does that mean some people or races are more acceptable to face wars than others or the perpetrator of war justifies how the support is extended? May be it is time we looked ourselves in the mirror.

The third and almost similar to the second is how the invasion of Ukraine has unravelled the hidden racism and supremacism by media institutions — the media is believed to be the champion of egalitarianism.

Before painting all the media with one brush here, it is important to note that some media organisations have done a wonderful job in highlighting the old-fashioned racism that befall black people in Ukraine and its neighbouring countries.

Barlaney Mufaro Gurure, a 19-year-old female space engineering student from Zimbabwe, was quoted in the media saying: “We felt treated like animals.”

This is after she was pushed aside by a border guard who gave priority to Ukrainians.

There are many of these appalling racist and hostile stories against black people and the world waits to see if there will be high-level condemnation of such primitive behaviour.

As if the mistreatment of black people in Ukraine was not enough, some Western media reporting has shown their racist exceptionalism — one that draws from the usual underlying supremacism. Charlie D’Agata of US’s CBS News  told his audience 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.”

Simply put D’Agata was telling the world that Iraq or Afghanistan is less civilised than Ukraine and that wars are not expected in civilised Europe but in countries that he mentioned and others outside Europe.  He later apologised.

There has been a lot of this type of reporting suggesting that wars are not for white people or Europeans.

Daniel Hannan of the Telegraph in the UK wrote referring to Ukraine refugees: “They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking …

“War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations.

“It can happen to anyone.” In short, he was implying that refugees are only shocking when they look like Europeans and not any other race.

The obnoxious racism was not only limited to the media.

In fact there is more toxic racism among political leaders in the Eastern Europe bloc.

The Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov takes the trophy.

He was quoted saying: “These are not the refugees we are 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 … So none of the European countries is afraid of the immigrant wave that is about to come.”

There you have it. Other races are seen as unintelligent and uneducated people that make European countries afraid.

Dear beloved ones, this here is how some Europeans see other races.

We are not there yet.