In the weeks since Vladimir Putin launched his “genius” invasion, more than two million Ukrainians have fled their country. These refugees have scattered to neighboring European nations, where they have received warm embraces—unless they are Black, in which case they are roughed up and detained.
Of course, the Ukrainian refugees deserve the world’s sympathy and assistance. It is worth noting, however, that because they are often blond and blue-eyed, their plight is eliciting far more empathy than, say, people fleeing war in the Middle East.
For example, the Danish Parliament has long allowed police to frisk Syrian asylum seekers “on arrival in the country and confiscate any non-essential items” worth more than $1,500 or so. The Danish government claims the procedure is “intended to cover the cost of each asylum seeker’s treatment.”
Oddly, that same government has suspended the law for Ukrainians, their fellow Europeans. But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.
In a similar manner, we’ve heard of the young Ukrainian boy who traveled solo for over 750 miles to reach safety. Yes, that kid is brave as hell and should be celebrated.
However, as many commentators have pointed out, thousands of Latin American kids undertake similar journeys to the United States, and once they get here, they do not receive accolades for their heroism. They are more likely to be thrown into a fucking cage.
So it’s well-established that asylum seekers receive different treatment, based largely on how white they are. In fact, the entire war has become a litmus test for individuals who are shocked to discover that white people can be violent. After all, these unsavory events happen only in Africa and Latin America, and crazy European dictators never attack other nations and unleash horrific war crimes.
In any case, refugees who receive asylum in other nations often hear that they must adapt to that country’s dominant culture. This iron law of assimilation is often decreed by nations that have a long history of colonialism and wiping out indigenous people.
After all, does anyone think that Great Britain assimilated to India’s dominant culture? And I don’t remember hearing about the Pilgrims having to fit into Native American culture.
And speaking of adapting to the dominant culture, this same standard does not apply in America when white people move to an ethnic minority neighborhood. In those cases, Blacks and Latino “fear that once new residents move in, they’ll act like gentrifiers and start calling the police on longtime residents.” Those fears are well-founded.
So where does this leave those refugees who do not have the good fortune to look Ukrainian? Well, the historical message continues to be the following:
- We will take your country if we want it.
- If we destabilize your nation, don’t come crying to us.
- If we deign to let you into our country, you must adapt to our culture.
- If you establish your own neighborhood, we will move into it, and you must still adapt to us.
And what can refugees do if they don’t like these capricious and self-serving rules? Well, nothing.
Because there is simply no place for them to go.
Featured image: Jordan Busson/CC BY 2.0