Posted on March 4, 2022

It’s Good to Be a White Refugee

Wajahat Ali, Daily Beast, March 4, 2022

I’d strongly recommend being white and European if you must flee your home as a refugee under the threat of violence, war, oppression, or political instability.


It seems whiteness is what magically transforms you into a “civilized” human being worth saving as opposed to inferior Black and brown communities who are also seeking refuge from horrific, ongoing catastrophes in places like Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Haiti.

Unfortunately, many media colleagues in the U.S. and Europe suffer from what I refer to as “White Journalism.” This is the most unfortunate byproduct of white supremacy that colors and distorts the worldview in which white lives, white pain, and white anxiety are recognized, centered, and exalted above all others, especially Black lives. The double standard reveals itself in media coverage, framing, language, political support, and empathy.

You might have seen the viral clip of a CBS correspondent in Kyiv telling his colleagues that Ukraine “isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades.”


{snip} The CBS reporter made the mistake of saying the quiet part out loud: “You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European—I have to choose those words carefully, too—city where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”

Translation: Ukrainians, who are white, are obviously “civilized,” and brown folks from the Middle East are not. He also failed to mention Iraq and Afghanistan were utterly pulverized and traumatized by the U.S. and its European allies in their reckless, bloody, and destructive War on Terror.


When it comes to Syrians, Afghans, and Iraqis fleeing horrors in part orchestrated by U.S. and European powers, then doors are closed and barriers and walls are constructed. Since the 2015 refugee crisis, “there are now border fences and walls in 10 European countries that together measure more than six times the length of the Berlin Wall.” Would walls have been built if these refugees had blue eyes and blond hair?

Unfortunately, most of the refugees were Muslims, or “invaders,” as Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, described them. {snip}

Miraculously, the right-wing anti-immigrant governments of both Hungary and Poland, which have stoked dangerous xenophobia and religious ethno-nationalism, have found space to accommodate Ukrainian refugees.

However, not all Ukrainian refugees are treated equally. There are reports that Polish guards are separating refugees into white and non-white groups. If you’re Black, that means you stay in the back. Africans trying to leave Ukraine have revealed incidents of racism, abuse, and neglect. They have complained about lack of food and shelter and being barred from boarding trains. “Our women first” is what the Ukrainian guards allegedly said whenever a Black lady would try to pass, according to Chineye Mbagwu, a young Nigerian doctor who finally made it to Warsaw “by struggling and pushing her way through.”


This begs the question: Which lives matter and why?

The double standards have been so gallingly apparent. {snip}

You can also see it between the nonstop coverage of missing white girls compared to the often non-existent coverage of missing Black and indigenous girls.

When white men and women attempt a violent insurrection to overthrow a free and fair election, they are “ordinary citizens” engaging in a “legitimate political discourse.” {snip}

Black men and women protesting police brutality are cast as violent thugs whose culture has pathological problems. Muslims are potential radicals whose religion must be reformed and whose innocent communities must be surveilled.