Black Ukrainians need support from African diaspora amid signs of racism
Refugee African students, of Eswatini (Swaziland) nationality, manage to pass the Romanian-Ukrainian border crossing point in Siret, northern Romania. Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA
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After recently learning about the treatment of African people in Ukraine and on the subject of standing in solidarity with them: I can’t get with it until Ukraine stands in solidarity with Black Ukrainians. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is despicable, and anyone with an ounce of humanity should absolutely have sympathy for the families suffering on the battleground.

But Black people, the main fight we should be concerned with is the one for our lives that’s clearly being fought on an international front. Because for too long, we’ve been asked to sweep our plight under the rug to stand on the frontlines for someone else’s. 

Black Ukrainians and immigrants treated like enemy amid Russian invasion
Nigerian students in Ukraine wait at the platform in Lviv railway station, Feb. 27, 2022, in Lviv, west Ukraine. | Bernat Armangue/AP

Ukraine / Russia conflict

As war erupts between the two European nations, people living in Ukraine are in a frenzy to escape to neighboring countries. However, reports released over the weekend show African students and other people of color experiencing racism during their attempts to flee. 

There are videos on social media of Black Ukrainians and other immigrants being barred from boarding trains with Ukrainian law enforcement giving access to white people first. Students are posting live footage of having guns drawn on them while trying to cross the Ukraine-Poland border. It pretty much looks like the final hours before Titanic sank when the lower-class patrons were left to fend for themselves and met with aggression when they were only trying to survive.

It’s crazy but not surprising that in all of the chaos, Ukrainians still have time to discriminate against melanated people. And one can certainly argue that this is a one-off, highly sensitive situation and the actions of a few people shouldn’t reflect the attitude of an entire country. 

Well, a woman and her eight month old baby were violently thrown off a bus, an American man was stopped by police, profiled as a drug smuggler and called a nigger. 

Students from Congo were attacked by Ukrainians. These are just a few incidents of racism against Black Ukrainians, all happening before the invasion and all because of skin color. So yep, this is Ukraine.

But back to this request for solidarity. 

The United States – and other countries – conveniently does this manipulative thing by convincing us to put democracy above all else–including our lives. It’s the colonization of our minds and identities.

When it comes to standing united to fight other countries that pose a threat to our way of life or that of our allies, we’re all one regardless of skin color. But outside of those times, we’re Black in a nation/world divided and devoured by racism.

We saw this happen during the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War. Black people were drafted as soldiers and became war heroes that fought for our country in hopes that we’d be respected and treated as such. But during those battles and when we returned home, we were still niggers, negroes and Black people subject to deplorable treatment because of our skin color. Convenient and temporary patriots.

Empathy for Black Ukrainians

Ultimately, this country intentionally keeps us as far away from our history and culture to preserve what we’ve known and been told as Americans. With that, we have very little connection to our original homeland, its people or our true identity to even have a united agenda to defend it.

Meanwhile, our African brothers and sisters are being brutalized abroad while we’re, in part, being asked to stand in solidarity with worldwide systemic oppression. 

So as it pertains to the racism against Black Ukrainians and African people anywhere else in the world, we have a responsibility to advocate for and stand in solidarity with them first. Because when this is all said and done, Black skin will still be under attack regardless of nationality. And while I understand Ukraine is going through it right now, there’s still space, opportunity and empathy for the country to support all people trying to escape the madness.

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work--"If not me then who?" As a strategist and injustice interrupter, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for radical...

4 replies on “Black Ukrainians need support from African diaspora amid signs of racism”

  1. This is sad, indeed, but I wonder why there is never any comment at the far greater number of blacks brutalised by other blacks? Where I live – in Africa – the black police kill far more blacks than z as my white police ever do, proportionally. And black governments kill far more black citizens than ever whites did. In South Africa today more blacks are killed by black police than happened during apartheid. And in Zimbabwe the same is true. This is the really pressing problem, not the few black refugees and migrants in Europe .

  2. Predictive text, that should have read “ Where I live – in Africa – the black police kill far more blacks than any white police ever did…”

  3. “People are fleeing a war but still find time to be racist.” It is so sad, that even during this time, blacks are still being mistreated, looked upon as the lesser race. In the words of Teddy Pendergrass “The world won’t get no better if we just let it be, we gotta change it, you and me”

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