As the Russo-Ukrainian War enters its third month, it continues to capture the world’s attention. Currently, two wars are co-occurring: a hot war between Russia and Ukraine and a proxy war between Russia and the West. With the West leading the call to Russia to account for invading Ukraine and putting pressure on other nations to pitch their tents with the West, it is time that the war serves as a wake-up call for our people across the world.
The war is a tragedy and has brought untold hardship to the people of Ukraine, who are watching their country being obliterated in real-time. As a pacifist, I believe that the path to peace is the best option for solving the crisis rather than ratching up the war rhetorics and amassing and deploying ammunitions. Even though this is not our war, it’s a “White man’s war” it still has ramifications for our people.
The war should serve as a wake-up call that Black lives don’t matter. The war showcases a hierarchy of pain where White pain is humanized while Black pain is ignored or demonized as if we’re impervious. When fighting takes place in Black and Brown nations (many of which are engineered by the West), the Western Whitestream media often ignores the pain inflicted on the Black population. As a result, the citizenry of the West is not sensitized about what is going on. In contrast, since the commencement of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the airwaves, radio, and print press have been inundated with the Ukrainian’s plight. We see images of little Ukrainian children bleeding and women crying. When the US and France invaded Libya, this led to the torture and death of many Black people, which continues due to fortress Europe; however, this did not make the front pages of the Western press. Also, when the US began its bombardment of Iraq and innocent Iraqi children were blown to pieces by US missiles, the Western media filled its front pages with headlines titled, First Strike: Good Morning, Baghdad instead of showing the pain experienced by the Iraqi people.
Besides the biased reportage by the Western press, we also see the asymmetric treatment of White pain vs. Black pain in the West’s attitude towards refugees fleeing war. Since the war began, many Ukrainians have fled the country for safety, and the West has welcomed them with open arms. The British government has developed a Government’s Home for Ukraine scheme whereby any British family that hosts a Ukrainian refugee gets £350 per month. In addition, Ukrainian refugees are entitled to free transport in Britain. Germany has received 331,600 Ukrainian refugees, while Italy and France have received 88,593 and 30,000. The fact that countries are willing to welcome Ukrainians fleeing war is commendable. However, the West’s compassion extended to White Ukrainians does not apply to refugees of other skin pigments fleeing war and persecution. Instead of welcoming Black refugees with open arms and a compassionate heart, the West looks the other way as they drown in the river. Instead of Western citizens opening their homes to Black refugees, they look the other way as their government ships the non-White refugees to Rwanda.
Black Diasporans need to wake up to the fact that being born or living in the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or any White governed nation-state does not make them British, Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, or White. As Malcolm X put it:
“You are not of the West, you are in the West. You’re not a Westerner… You’re not White — you’re in the White world, but that doesn’t make you White; you’re as Black as you ever were, you’re just in the White world”Malcolm X
Furthermore, when people were escaping Ukraine at the onset of the war, a skin color-coded scheme was put in place. If you were White, you were allowed to get out, but you were blocked from leaving if you were Black. We need to wake up to the fact that there is a hierarchy of immigrants. The long and short of it is Black diasporans in the White world are not welcome; they are just tolerated. When crises emerge outside the West, there is a refugee hierarchy of acceptance in the West, where Blacks are relegated to the bottom of the racist totem pole. For instance, when China introduced a new security law in 2020, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, pledged to admit 3 million people from Hong Kong. It is time for us to stop fooling ourselves into thinking that we are Westerners because we live in the West and wake up to the fact that we are one crime away from being stripped of the so-called Western citizenship as British Home Secretary Priti “deport dem” Patel would have it.
It is time for the Black race to stop seeking respect and recognition from Western-based organizations and standard setters. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the Grammy, Oscars, and Olympics have become political theatres promoting Western geopolitical interests. Yet, paradoxically, these institutions have been silent when war rages in the Black parts of the world. We need to realize that the Grammys, the Oscars, the Nobel Prize, and the Western-centric Hall of Fames are Western constructs to enforce White supremacy. They are not the global judge of excellence. When we submit ourselves to Western standards of excellence, we risk being used as players in the West’s geopolitical game. So instead of craving recognition from West, let’s develop our reward system that honors those who work to advance our people instead of Western interests.
Following from above, we should work toward creating an economic system that is less reliant on the West. The war has shown that when we hand over our wealth to the West or use the Western financial plumbing system, we risk losing our wealth to the West if our interests are in serious conflict with their interests. For example, the West has frozen around $300bn of Russia’s foreign reserves. In February 2022, the US government froze $7bn of Afghanistan’s reserves and decided to give a sizeable share to its US victims of terrorism while millions of Afghanistan were starving. For Afrikan countries, the long-term aim should be economic sufficiency instead of relying on Western economic dominance and its neo-colonial structures such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, and The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), etc. Where necessary, we should partner with other nations and regions to develop parallel economic structures to rid us of the Western Kool-Aid. We need to be united before we can look the West straight in the eyeballs and call its bluff, hence the necessity to stoke the idea of Pan-Afrikanism as envisioned by the Most Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey & Amy Jacques Garvey and Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah.
The Western attitude to Russia should also serve as a wake-up call to Afrikan kleptocrat leaders who see nothing wrong in sucking the continent dry and storing the crime proceeds in Western financial centers. There is no guarantee that the West will return their ill-gotten wealth to them; they should instead work hard to fix the economies of the countries they manage.
Malcolm X said, “Our people are being used as pawns in the game of power politics by political hypocrites.” This trend plays out in the Russo-Ukraine war, whereby Western governments and media pressure Black countries to take sides in the war. Western media organizations like the Financial Times, Foreign Policy, and Irish Times have questioned Afrika’s neutrality about the war (even though a month later the Irish Times published an article with the heading: Neutrality a core element of our national identity). The US ambassador to the United Nations criticized Afrika’s neutral stance. At the same time, European diplomats put pressure on Afrikan Union members to take the same position as the West. We should pursue peace rather than taking sides in the West’s proxy war with Russia.
With the West’s reaction to the war, the Black world needs to be awakened to the West’s hypocrisy. The West has a long history of speaking from two sides of its mouth. It says one thing when its interests are not under threat and another when they are under threat. We have heard the West jive about how our people should not mix politics with sports for a long time. When Raven Saunders crossed her arms at the medal award ceremony, she was investigated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). When Tommie Smith and John Carlos protested at the 1968 Olympics for the injustice meted upon Black Americans, they were kicked out of the Olympic Games. The mantra, “Politics should not mix with sports,” has been thrown away now that Russia has invaded Ukraine. For instance, UEFA has banned Russian teams from competing in all European organized football tournaments. At the same time, the International Swimming Federation suspended Russia’s Evgeny Rylov for nine months for attending a pro-war rally. The All England Lawn Tennis Club banned Russian and Belarusian tennis players from competing at the 2022 Wimbledon Championship. Paradoxically, when South Afrika was under the apartheid regime, Wimbledon did not implement any ban for White South Afrikan tennis players competing in the tournament. We should continue to project our political voice onto the global sports stage irrespective of what the gatekeepers of Western sports think.
“Our people are being used as pawns in the game of power politics by political hypocrites”Malcolm X
Another manifestation of the West’s hypocrisy is its call for Putin to face the International Criminal Court for war crimes. President Joe Biden called for a war crimes trial against President Putin. There is no doubt about war crimes in Ukraine; however, the West is not in the position to call out Russia for war crimes when it has a long history of engaging in similar crimes. Due to the USA’s invasion of Iraq and its use of drone attacks on civilians in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, President Bush and President Obama also deserve a place in The Hague along with Putin. Furthermore, under the presidency of President Donald Trump, the USA revoked the visa of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in anticipation of an investigation into possible war crimes committed by US forces during the War in Afghanistan.
We also see the West’s hypocrisy in implementing its sanctions against Russia and confiscation of Russian property in the West. The West has seized yachts and frozen assets belonging to many oligarchs. While the West easily justifies its actions, it is in the habit of punishing other nations that carry out similar activities. When Guatemala, under the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, confiscated the land belonging to United Fruit Company, an American multinational, the company lobbied the US government to act. In response, the USA invaded Guatemala and overthrew a democratically elected government in response. Moreover, the West needs to ask itself how taking assets belonging to wealthy Russians away differs from Robert Mugabe’s seizure of White colonial land grabbed farmlands, which generated a lot of uproar in Western capitals. The West also has a talent for recognizing the evil deeds of its enemies while looking the other way when its allies commit similar crimes, as evidenced by its failure to call out the atrocities taking place in Yemen.
Finally, when analyzing the war in Ukraine, we should remain sympathetic to the plight of the Ukrainians, push for a peaceful resolution, and at the same time wake up to the learning points and implications of the war for our people. If we continue to be informed by the BBC, CNN, France 24, New York Times, and other Western propaganda machines, we will have a whitewashed view of the war and miss a teachable moment.