United We Stand with EVERYONE in Ukraine
Adulthood teaches us lessons that years of formal education could’ve never prepared us for. Things get quite complicated when we take off our rose-coloured glasses and leave the cartoon world of heroes and villains. One critical lesson most of us come to realize is that two opposing things can be simultaneously true, creating a complicated paradox.
For instance, you can be the victim of injustice while simultaneously perpetuating injustices against others. You can recognize your own marginalization while also marginalizing people who are not like you. And suppose your complicitness in the marginalization of others is brought to your attention, you’d most likely get defensive and respond by minimizing the impact of your actions and pointing to whatever self-serving hierarchy of needs that would allow you to believe your suffering is greater and merits immediate attention. It’s difficult to swallow, but it’s the truth, and it’s exactly what’s taking place in Ukraine.
The news from Ukraine is bleak and unrelenting, and there doesn’t seem to be much hope for a quick or peaceful resolution. People are rushing to the border to flee the violence, and countries with extensive resources have sent various forms of evacuation for their nationals who are trapped in Ukraine. Poland has opened its borders to let in Ukrainian refugees, and it would seem like everything possible is being done to protect human lives and mitigate disaster and extreme loss of life.
However, tens of thousands of Black, Brown and other People of Colour are being prevented from leaving the now war-torn country because of the colour of their skin. The hashtag #AfricansinUkraine has been trending on Twitter over the past few days, and the images are shocking, but not surprising. We see pictures and videos of People of Colour being blocked from boarding trains and buses with the reasoning that these forms of evacuation are reserved for Ukrainians only. And although we collectively gathered, regardless of the colour of our skin, to #StandwithUkraine, we have now been confronted with the harsh reality that there’s a hierarchy to who gets to dodge bombs and missiles.
The people in Ukraine, like all people caught in any conflict, are entitled to and deserve whatever support, aid, and refuge the rest of the world can provide. That’s the idea, right? War breaks out, and the world rushes in to offer aid, support, and protection to all the refugees? While this certainly makes sense and should be the model in all situations, evidence from citizen journalists is showing that the marginalization of Ukrainian nationals trumps the marginalization of Black and other People of Colour, even in a national crisis.
The good news is that organizations and networks throughout Europe and the world are mobilizing to get aid and transportation to the Black and Brown residents, international students, and workers currently trapped in Ukraine. There are People of Colour in the Ukraine offering shelter and food to anyone who shows up. Countries are mobilizing resources through their embassies and getting travel documents and visa waivers for their citizens trapped in the conflict. There are also Ukrainians pushing back on these biased restrictions and appealing for everyone to receive equal treatment. The hashtags are working, and the Black diaspora and our networks of allies worldwide are coming together to help.
So as Black History Month comes to an end and we continue to #StandwithUkraine, let’s recognize the power of networks to bridge distances, build community and help us support one another during good and bad times. The networks we have are essential tools for survival, and critical, in fact, for those who have never had the luxury of simply counting on human decency.
If you or anyone you know is trapped in Ukraine, please access the following resources:
WhatsApp Group for “African Students in UA”
Telegram Group “Financial Assistance for African Students Fleeing Ukraine”
Google Doc with Resources for Ukrainians Leaving Ukraine
Google Doc with List of NGOs if you cross to Poland