Black in the conflict
As I write this, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is going into its 12th day. The Ukrainian people are putting up a decent resistance but Russian forces have seized two cities and are constantly bombarding the countryside, whether ceasefires have been agreed upon or not.
We have seen Ukrainian refugees scattered across Europe, primarily in countries aligned with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO for short. However, the sad pictures became even sadder when those of us on social media saw some all to familiar images. I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t some kind of Russian propaganda put out there to further divide Americans, as they have been successful in doing so recently.
Unfortunately, they were legit. African people attempting to leave Ukraine were being denied access to the trains carrying other refugees across Ukrainian borders. To the surprise of many, there were, at the start of the invasion, some 80,000 African and South Asian immigrants in the country of Ukraine, the overwhelming majority of them students. Many of them are from countries that don’t have much, if any, diplomatic presence in Europe, so when those that did get on the trains got off, there wasn’t any one from their consulates greeting them. It has been the benevolence of international non-profits and kind individuals that have assisted them.
Many in the diaspora were ready to say to hell with Ukraine because of this, but as I stated in my previous blog, an overthrown Ukraine undermines democracy and human rights for the world. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is 27 years older than the current Ukrainian democratic government. Africans in Ukraine have a better chance for human rights victories with a fledgling democratic government than an authoritarian government controlled by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. This crisis will go a long way in improving race relations there, assuming that the Ukrainian Resistance will be victorious, and that is a pretty safe assumption. Think long game.
Meanwhile, another unfortunate development has occurred during this conflict. The first American casualty, for lack of a more appropriate term, in this new Cold War, is an American athlete. Brittney Griner, one of the stars of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), is being detained in Moscow’s International Airport, allegedly for possession of a Russian-banned substance, hashish oil. Yes, I see the irony in Russia having a banned substance list, considering their history of doping athletes.
Griner has played professionally in Russia in the past, so many believe she should have known the drill and not brought ANYTHING illegal into the country, especially now with tensions so high between Russia and the United States. Many are questioning why would she, or any American, consent to play there during this period in history. Maybe if female professional athletes were paid more, they wouldn’t take that risk, but that is another topic for another blog. It is my hope that Griner is not being used as a political pawn in this international game of diplomatic chess, but history has shown that this is probably the case. It is yet another unfortunate complication that has caught the attention of African Americans, across the political spectrum, who are demanding her release from Russian authorities.
So, no matter how some outspoken African American socio-political leaders and social media influencers want to distance themselves from the events in Ukraine, we have skin in the game and we cannot ignore it. Need I remind you that nearly 30 percent of all the women, and nearly 20 percent of all the men, enlisted in the US Military are African American. If this escalates beyond the borders of Ukraine, it will be our Black brothers and sisters fighting for world democracy, yet again. If you don’t want to see those service star flags flying for another decade in your neighborhood or home, pray for the resilience of the Ukrainian people and do what you can to help the resistance. Don’t ignore it.