Recent viral footage of inhumane treatment of African women in Ukraine sparks a discussion about why racism should be addressed as a global issue.
We talk a lot about racism in the U.S., and rightfully so. But racism is not only an issue in America. It is a malignancy that exists worldwide and should be treated as such. Over the weekend, several videos of Africans being treated inhumanely in Ukraine have once again reminded us why racism must be addressed as a global issue of concern.
On Saturday, several videos went viral on social media of Black women and young girls in Ukraine being exposed to extreme racism. One video showed several African women stranded at a Ukrainian border in almost below freezing weather. Various celebrities and public figures quickly commented in response to the heartbreaking video. White House Correspondent and Political Analyst April Ryan said,
“They said women and children are allowed in, just not black women and children. Are there any orgs that we can work with to help to shelter these people?”
Contributing writer for THE ATLANTIC and podcast host, Jemele Hill tweeted,
“This is why racism must be seen as a global problem. Absolutely disgraceful.:
The specific video was of an African woman looking for shelter at a hostel while holding a two-month-old infant in frigidly cold weather conditions. The second video showed a Ukrainian police officer pushing a young Black girl off a train that was on its way to transport women and children to safety.
April Ryan commented on Instagram,
Once again, our Black brothers and sisters are being pushed to the sidelines and denied their own safety. Remember, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. This is why we must continue fighting for equality for people of color across the globe!!
But the treatment of African women and children in Ukraine should be no surprise. Global racism has been an ongoing issue. Ukraine specifically has continued to wrestle with constant racially motivated attacks against non-Ukrainian residents. Research examining racism in Ukraine has found that very little has been done to address the ongoing racial tension and that authorities have not yet adopted a “comprehensive body of civil and administrative anti-discrimination laws.” Anti-Semitism is prevalent in the country. Yet, very few are held accountable and prosecuted for making antisemitic statements or publishing antisemitic literature.
There are also large cohorts of skinheads and neo-nazis in Kyiv and throughout other parts of the country who have violently targeted Tatars and Jews. And again, law enforcement has done very little. African and Asian individuals living in the country have also experienced devastating racism and discrimination. Although the African population in Ukraine is very small, they are highly visible and vulnerable targets of racism and xenophobia. Making the rate of violence against this group significantly high.
But, Ukraine is not alone. Racism has been a recurring component of European history. Using the Implicit Bias Association Test, a study of social attitudes conducted at Harvard University from 2002 to 2015 identified the countries in Europe with the highest incidents of racial bias, based on data from 288,076 Europeans. The weakest racial discrimination was found in Serbia and Slovenia, and the most substantial racial bias was found in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, and Malta. The Pew Research Center released Denmark as the third most racist country in western Europe — reporting that 29% of the residents have negative views about Blacks, Muslims, Jews, or members of the LGBTQIA community. More specifically, the same study also found that almost 75% of Denmark residents rated Romas as “totally negative,” and 45% held negative perspectives towards Muslims.
Other parts of the world also have severe issues with racism. Just last year, on the eve of the Lunar New Year, the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV televised its annual live variety show. Hundreds of millions of viewers watched in confusion — and some — in outrage as Chinese dancers performed the “African Song and Dance” to celebrate African culture in Black face. Although some viewers quickly expressed deep displeasure over the performance, anti-Blackness is nothing new in China. In an MSNBC article, opinion columnist Yaqiu Wang wrote, “for those who think the official line from Beijing is bad, check out the Chinese internet, where the rampant racism against Black people is often too appalling to repeat.” Wang described numerous other extreme instances of racism, including in a south Guangzhou city where Chinese authorities started a campaign requiring African residents to “forcibly” be tested for COVID-19 and ordered them to remain in quarantine in designated hotels.
Landlords even went as far as to evict African tenants, forcing them to sleep on the streets, shops, or hotels. During this time, some restaurants even refused to serve Black customers. Mind you; these requirements were not enforced onto Chinese residents. Sadly, structural racism and individual acts of blatant egregious racism can be seen worldwide and have devastated various racial and ethnic groups. As we continue to fight against racism and ultimately for equity in America, let us not forget other parts of the world in which members from marginalized groups are living in impoverished conditions in addition to being exposed to heinous acts of discrimination and racism.