This post is dedicated to two students, one Indian and one Nigerian, who in separate incidents froze to death at the Ukrainian border while waiting to cross to safety. They were two of many seeking to flee war only to discover the war against their humanity; may they Rest In Peace and their loved ones be comforted.
Are we such a cowardly species that we cannot demand that our friends, loved ones, colleagues, communities, nations, and world act morally in times of war? Are we so ruthless in our commitment to the good victim narrative that when we witness our side, which is always the side of ‘good’, behaving heinously, we sew up our lips, avert our eyes, and pretend nothing untoward is happening?
There are people being brutalized, prevented from fleeing war, and dying in the Ukraine for no other reason than they are Black (African and African Diaspora people) and Brown people in THIS world. A few are non-white Ukrainian citizens and many are students, and migrant workers.
Two months into the global COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the video of the murder of George Floyd’s sparked the summer of 2020 worldwide BLACK LIVES MATTER protests; companies and universities globally denounced racism (in all its forms) and racial violence, in particular; each came out with The Statement. In these statements institutions claimed to want to do their part to ensure racial equality, many acknowledging their historical role in the creation of a racialized world, and explicitly claiming commitment to do better. COVID-19 laid bare health inequities that made it that Black and Brown populations are most significantly burden by the pandemic and state violence (which continued throughout the protest period and beyond). And, as we lift lockdown protocols, Black and Brown bodies continue to populate the morgues.
Today, less than 2 years since George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests, new Statements are called for, and are being made. These are statements in solidarity with the people of Ukraine in the new war. And, unfortunately, Black and Brown people are dying at the hands of Ukrainians; many of whom are in solidarity with Ukraine in this war. Why this does not present a moral reckoning for Ukrainians, I fail to understand.
Maybe it is because there are no statements being requested or promoted demanding the protection of the Black and Brown Lives in Ukraine. Maybe it challenge is a lack of knowing what can be done.
Well, what can Ukrainians do for the remaining African/African Diaspora and Asians and South Asians still in the Ukraine:
- 1) Admit White Ukrainians have a problem with racism and say it. Don’t be silent;
- 2)Don’t kill, kick, beat, stomp or otherwise violate African/African Diaspora and Asians and South Asians seeking to flee the Ukraine;
- 3) If by some miracle African/African Diaspora and Asians and South Asian person/s managed to reach a border, allow them to cross in the manner you would a White Ukrainian. To be clear: Don’t have them sit outside for hours/days in the freezing cold or inside a bunker without heat, food, water, or toilet facilities they are able to use. Don’t trip, kill, kick, beat, stomp or otherwise violate their persons;
- 4)Don’t lock African/African Diaspora and Asians and South Asian person/s in a room where the only exit door leads to a riled-up group of Neo-Nazi ready to brutalize and kill them;
- 5)If the African/African Diaspora and Asians and South Asians are in a car when they get to the border, or near the border, don’t request that they get out of the car and stand on an overcrowded line that is visibly only for Black and Brown people;
- 6)Eliminate the Black and Brown people lines; there should be one path which all potential refugees travel, appropriate for White, Black, and Brown people fleeing war;
- 7)Don’t hold African/African Diaspora and Asians and South Asian person/s at gun point and demand they leave the border crossing they have struggled so hard to reach;
- 8)Practice kindness first and foremost, the way the world is doing with White Ukrainian refugees;
- 9)Assist persons and organizations assisting African/African Diaspora and Asians and South Asians leaving the Ukraine;
- 10)Don’t kill, kick, beat, stomp or otherwise violate African/African Diaspora and Asians and South Asians seeking to flee the Ukraine (some suggestions need to be repeated);
- 11)If you see something; do something morally appropriate (such as offer compassion, comfort, care).
I am in solidarity with Ukrainians against Russian aggression. Nonetheless, I recognize that Ukrainian practices of racism (including the silence) violate the minds and bodies of African/African Diaspora and Asian and South Asians fleeing the war and mangles the arc of justice. I will continue to demand that Ukrainians around the world work to protect (in the same manner they do their own country white men and women, families and friends) the sanctity of the life and wellbeing of African/African Diaspora and Asian and South Asians fleeing the Ukraine/Russia war. This is my statement!