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The hypocrisy of the west and racism during war

Nadezda Majdalani

Being a woman who comes from the Middle East - Lebanon in particular, exposed to discrimination for years, and who is aware of what is happening in the world today, especially as someone who has experienced many wars in her childhood, I can't help but point out a few things that sparked a fire in me surrounding the coverage of the war in Ukraine. These are mainly different statements given by various national and international reporters and politicians on the news and social media on the subject of war and refugees.

I originally left my country to seek a better life and to build a safer and more secure future in Bulgaria. "Fortunately" my status was not that of a refugee. A refugee or in most cases an “illegal migrant” as you call us when we are not with the right skin colour. Why is this word associated with shame, deceit and disgrace when it is about seeking refuge from the horrors of war? And somehow no one considers white people to be illegal migrants because they couldn't possibly be! They are intelligent and educated people, they are Europeans, after all! Or at least that is how our Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and the Western media describe them, apparently in contrast to the "refugees we are used to".

Among the many posts uploaded on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter related to the topic of racist and Islamophobic reactions to the war, I made note of a few that describe our sad reality and how we, people of colour, are perceived in it. Our suffering and killing is accepted as almost natural, and the conditions in which we live are by default miserable, and that too seems to be the order of things.

Various organisations working on the ground have shared how Polish border controls continue to stop people from Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan from crossing the border or seeking asylum, leaving them stranded in the forests of Belarus, and let’s not forget the students from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, India and Pakistan who also continue to be refused entry into Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. Whether it is because of Schengen or because they are already registered migrants in another country, Ukrainians have no such restrictions. Why? Because they are white-skinned and blue-eyed, because they look like other Europeans, and they have the same background. Because they drive cars like them, go to work like them, and have a peaceful lifestyle. Of course, for us this is atypical. We're used to living in squalid conditions, being bombarded without knowing exactly when and where, never having driven cars, living "in tents" and going "by camel" to school and work, and now "taking advantage" of the situation to live in more civilised conditions... In other words, to them, we're savages. Whether we have papers or not, at the border we are attacked with embarrassing questions, ignored, accused, arrested, etc.

"This is not a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, where conflicts have been raging for decades. This is a relatively civilised, relatively European - and I have to choose those words carefully, too - city where you wouldn't expect this or hope that it’s going to happen," were the words of CBS News senior correspondent in Kiev Charlie D'Agata on the war in Ukraine. According to him and many others, in a "modern and advanced" European country like Ukraine, war is something unacceptable, unlike countries of the Global South like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, etc., simply because the white West is used to seeing wars there and they have become a "natural" thing.

One very interesting fact that many people dismiss is that when it comes to white civilians picking up weapons to defend their land from invaders, Western media calls it heroism, but when a Lebanese, Palestinian, or Afghan does it, they call it terrorism. I had read somewhere that the British television channel Sky News had shown a clip detailing how people make bombs and how to make the devices as effective as possible. If these explosive devices were made by Palestinians, they would be declared terrorists.

Sadly, statements such as the ones above continue to go unsanctioned, despite the anger expressed on social media by people of colour and people of different ethnicities, which point to these countless outbursts of white privilege, which consists of being able to divide migrants into 'deserving' and 'undeserving' of shelter and support without even thinking; exclaiming that you never thought we would see war in the 21st century, completely ignoring the fact that there are so many places in the world where wars have not stopped for years; the privilege of disregarding the fates and struggles of everyone who is not of your colour.

In the wake of recent events in Ukraine, we from the Global South are being humiliated and criticised for mentioning wars in our homelands that have been going on for years without getting any media attention, as if we are trying to shift the focus of what is going on today to the usual irregularities in "third world" countries. The unfortunate truth is that many white people notice and realise that we from the Global South, suffering from occupation or war, criticise the hypocrisy of the West, world leaders and governments for constantly proving that the lives of people of colour have no value to them, but choose to turn a blind eye to this explicit form of racism. Just because the war in Ukraine deserves our attention right now does not mean that we should neglect military conflicts elsewhere in the world. I urge all of you to also show your support for all the non-white refugees from Ukraine and for those who continue to suffer in their own countries right now.


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