These refugees, not those refugees

(Disclaimer: This is not my post to write. I’m white and privileged, I’m not an authority on race or refugees. But that never stops other people from sharing their views, so I should speak up…I’m an authority on media, and this is a media bias issue)

I haven’t said anything about Ukraine on the blog because there’s so much to say that it’s hard to know where to start. I’m also reluctant to say anything because the sheer amount of attention that it’s been getting is also upsetting, in and of itself.

The other day I heard on the radio that the UK Government was paying people who would take in Ukrainian refugees, and that there’s been an unprecedented amount of support for them, with people offering to open up their homes. On the one hand, this is absolutely lovely and right and good, and I don’t want to detract from what is a wonderful humanitarian effort. On the other hand, why is this unprecedented? Why haven’t other groups of refugees received this much attention and support? Why didn’t the UK Government pay people to take in Afghans or Syrians?

Why do these refugees get an unprecedented outpouring of love and those refugees don’t?

One of my favourite writers/thinkers/people, Ijeoma Oluo talked about this at the start of the Ukraine invasion. Of course it’s right that people are upset about Ukraine and want to help the Ukrainians–but where is this empathy and love and support for refugees outside of Europe?

Trevor Noah also confronted some of these ideas on The Daily Show.

In this piece in the Independent, Nadine White does a brilliant job of discussing the racial bias in media coverage of the Ukraine crisis. She cites many examples of journalists commenting on how shocking it is to see this happen in Europe, how they “look like us”.

Peter Dobbie on Al Jazeera English was quoted as saying “What’s compelling is looking at them, the way they are dressed. These are prosperous, middle-class people. These are not obviously refugees trying to get away from the Middle East […] or North Africa. They look like any European family that you’d live next door to.”

“On Friday, Sky News broadcast a clip of people making Molotov cocktails – effectively bombs – explaining in intricate detail how to make these devices as effective as possible. Can you imagine if these were Syrians or Palestinians? They’d quickly be branded as terrorists.”

Nadine White, 28 February 2022, The Independent

What are we supposed to do with this information?

-Hold people accountable when they make comments about these refugees being “like us” (because all refugees are like us, actually)

-Urge your political leaders to support all refugees and to aim for peaceful, diplomatic methods of conflict resolution

-Donate money to organisations that help on a global scale (IRC, Unicef, Doctors Without Borders, etc.)

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