Years ago, when I was just beginning to practice immigration law, I remember hearing about two horrific genocides. They were almost back-to-back, happening within little more than a year of each other, and each became the focus of a war crimes tribunal at the Hague. The first one occurred in the spring of 1994 when Rwandan Hutus massacred hundreds of thousands of their Tutsi neighbors in a matter of months. A year later, in Bosnia, thousands of Muslim men and boys were murdered by their Serbian captors in a town called Srebrenica.
At the time, it was difficult to find any overt “racism” as we have come to view it in the United States, because both the victims and the victimizers in Rwanda were Black, and the victims and victimizers in Bosnia were white (although in the latter case there was the additional element of religion, which was the motivating factor for the Bosnian Serbs). All that mattered was that one group of people had terrorized and dehumanized another group of people based on hatred and ignorance, and the world looked on in horror. It was a replay of the Holocaust, only televised.
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But when I listen to people like Joy Ann “Why Is She Still On Television” Reid, I realize that we Americans have lost any sense of reality. On her show her on MSNBC, Reid made this statement about the deepening humanitarian crisis:
“As the world watches the devastation unfold in Ukraine, nearly 4,000 miles away, another crisis is deepening that we don’t hear much about in the US, and that is the war in Yemen. The coverage of Ukraine has revealed a pretty radical disparity in how human Ukrainians look and feel to western media compared to their browner and Blacker counterparts, with some reporters using very telling comparisons in their analyses of the war.” She added that the world cared more for white Christians than it did for people who looked like her.
Interestingly enough, Reid has only recently become interested in Yemen, judging from her searchable public statements. I googled her name her next to “crisis in Yemen” and came up with page after page of her her most recent tirade against white Christians, but virtually nothing earlier than last week. Nothing. When you consider that the situation in Yemen has been going on since approximately 2011 and really picked up speed in 2014, you might think that Reid is a little slow on the uptake.
Then there were those “I can’t believe that happened!” news flashes about people of color who were taken off of refugee trains to give space to Ukrainians attempting to flee their beleaguered country. When there was the suggestion that Black and brown foreign exchange students were taken off of trains, the first reaction should have been: That’s terrible, but people become desperate during war time and lose sense of their humanity.
Instead, it became “those disgusting white people are racist, and they got even more racist when the bombs were falling on their heads and their children were being massacred. God, they are just white supremacists, like those parents at school board meetings.”
I’m exaggerating, of course. But instead of realizing that people act poorly in times of crisis, the mainstream media went right to the George Floyd narrative of “white people hating on people of color.” It never occurred to the observers that maybe, just maybe, the color of the students didn’t matter. It was the fact, equally repellent but not racialized, that Ukrainians had more sympathy for other Ukrainians than they did for foreigners.
It was the same when we were evacuating Afghanistan and my friends were saying “we need to get the Americans out,” and I was saying “we also need to rescue the Afghan allies who risked their lives for Americans.” Country first is not a good thing, in times of crisis. But it’s not about race.
People can be inhuman in many different ways. The Bosnian Serbs hated the Bosnian Muslims because they saw these men, who looked and spoke and lived like them, side by side for generations, as the “other.” It was their religion that put the target on their backs.
In Rwanda, the Hutus went after men, women and children who looked exactly like them, sounded like them, worshiped like them (mostly Catholic Christians), and saluted the same flag. They did this because of tribal loyalties, and ethnic hatreds. And skin color was irrelevant, as it was with the Serbs.
It’s sad that we have to fit every instance of horror and genocide into these nice little Black Lives Matter categories in the US, and twist the narrative so that it allows despicable people like Joy Ann Reid to exploit tragedy. There is a genocide going on in Ukraine, and the vast majority of the victims are white Christians.
The fact that this is a problem for people like Joy Ann Reid shouldn’t make a damn difference.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.