Ukraine versus Afganistan
I don’t know exactly what people would guess my major is, but it’s not journalism or communication. I stumbled upon working on the paper by accident. I went to a club fair, and when I saw The Spectrum table, I thought to myself, “Well, I have a lot to say; maybe I will give writing a try,” and now here we are, a year and a half later.
I am actually in the double major progress for HDFS and a social work major, and I am four classes away from a psychology minor, so I am trying to get that under my belt.
Essentially, that means I study a lot of sociology, psychology and human behavior. In practice, that means I am specifically studying social change theory, family system theory and how to work with all kinds of people to make them feel comfortable enough to tell you what is going on with them and how to meet their needs.
To work with all kinds of people, we social workers study diversity and strive for cultural competency. No matter your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or age, a good social worker should be able to consider those things and provide you with the best resources.
This is an incredibly long-winded way to say I view the news through these lenses. When I watch a presidential debate, I am sometimes more focused on the behavior of the speaker than the words. I can’t help but observe how we cover different news stories, and the micro injustices often said without prior thought.
Even so, when one of my professors brought up the weird way we have talked about the war in Ukraine versus the way we talked about the wars in the Middle East, it had never even crossed my mind how differently we talk about these events.
I am not a fan of war. I believe in human rights, and Russia has shown us that they are willing to commit genocide. Their acts are heinous and disgusting. Many are not turning a blind eye to the suffering.
But where was all this energy for the people in Afghanistan and Iraq? Where was all this uproar when we dropped bombs on civilians in the Middle East? How Russia excuses the violence by telling their people that it’s okay to commit these acts because Ukrainians harbor terrorists and matzos in their midst sounds uncomfortably similar to what the United has been telling us for years about the Middle East.
And I am ashamed to say, when my professor brought up this connection, my gut reaction was to say these wars were different because we, the United States, didn’t start the war in the Middle East. But if you have read my other article about the war in Afghanistan here, you know that’s not strictly true.
America has a long and sordid history involving itself in the affairs of other countries, whether they desire it or not. Our meddling in the Middle East ended up causing al Qaeda to form. It is often our being in places we don’t belong that causes a lot of anti-American sentiment in countries we shouldn’t be in.
That doesn’t mean we should sit idle when our countries are attacked, but it also means that we suffer the consequences of our government’s poor foreign affairs.
And even if we were, does that indeed excuse all the people we have hurt in the Middle East? Is that enough to explain and accept all we have done over there? The intercept reports that we have done “extrajudicial killings, drone strikes that killed an untold number of civilians and torture.”
So why are we so quick to point to Russia and suddenly be horrified. We have been killing women, children and an untold number of innocent people for ages; why all the outcry now? When refugees needed to come from the Middle East in 2016, they were called terrorists and denied entry. Now that white people need help, though, there has been no talk that they could be suspected Russian agents.
Charlie D’Agata proves how correct my perception of these events is. He said, “This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully, too — city, one where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it will happen.”
In short, things like this don’t happen to white people.
And as if the prevalence of racism couldn’t be more blatantly obvious, there are reports that black people are being turned away at the border in favor of white Ukrainians. The message is loud in clear; we only report on the sufferings of white people. We are willing to go to war to protect white people over their human rights, but there has been little to no reporting on the other human rights violations happening all over the globe. Where was this outcry when Muslims were put in concentration camps in China?
Don’t mishear me. I am not saying that Russia’s horrific things in Ukraine don’t matter. I am saying that we need to care about all the injustices happening to all people. The news doesn’t report on the racial inequities around the globe. There was no mobilization for the people in the Middle East or China. But suddenly, when white folk are in danger, even Grammarly has changed its logo to the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Stand up for what’s right. Be willing to fight for the people in Ukraine, the rights of women in the Middle East and the freeing of people in China. All of these are worthy of fighting for. If one of these crimes seems greater than another, you should re-examine your heart.
I would argue that America could be doing far more to aid president Zelensky in Ukraine. We should ally with Ukraine and give them all the support they need to secure the Donbas region and protect it from the Russian invaders.
Russia should be made to answer for all the civilians that have been brutally killed and the bombs dropped on humanitarian roads away from the conflict. This article is not intended to discredit or gloss over the atrocities happening in Ukraine.
I only mean to point out that we should also be supporting the human rights efforts globally and standing up for the people who need it, even when they aren’t white.
Even the idea that the United States will only help people that “look like us” is steeped in racist ideology. The United States’ census projects are becoming more diverse faster than predicted, and “whites” will be a minority by 2045.
The idea that America is white is a false one. We are a diverse country with people of all different backgrounds here. If it’s our policy only to be helping people that look like us, that should mean helping people of every country as we Americans are secretly a people of many nations.
We need to push our legislatures to be more active in providing humanitarian efforts globally and standing up for what is right. So, be loud for the people in Ukraine, and be just as loud for the countries outside of Europe that need help.