People “Like Us”

The war coverage in Ukraine reveals racism.


Katie Donivan, Staff Writer

On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine and sparked Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II. While four million refugees fled to Poland, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia, the rest of the world has watched in horror, offering any aid they can. 

In addition to the tragic departure of Ukrainian nationals, we see concerning news coverage comparing the European country to other war-riddled countries in the Middle East. There is an assumption of social status and class that Middle Eastern countries hold versus their European counterparts. 

“This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades,” said Charlie D’Agata, a CBS senior foreign correspondent in Kyiv. “You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully, too — city where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”

D’Agata did not choose his words carefully enough, as this statement triggered outrage from CBS viewers and all over Twitter. To deem the war in Ukraine as abnormal is to say war in the Middle East is inherently inevitable due to the nature of the people who live and govern there. 

Other news correspondents and foreign leaders echo this allegedly racist sentiment; people from the Middle East are estranged because they don’t meet the acceptable physical standards needed to draw empathy in their white counterparts.

Ukraine’s former deputy chief prosecutor, David Sakvarelidze, said that the situation in Ukraine was “very emotional” for him as he sees “European people with blue eyes and blond hair…being killed.” 

This description of young children is eerily similar to a certain German dictator’s idea of the superior Aryan race. Is the future beginning to echo the past? 

“These are not obviously refugees looking to get away from areas in the Middle East that are still in a big state of war,” Al Jazeera English Anchor Peter Dobbie said. “These are not people trying to get away from areas in North Africa. They look like any European family that you would live next door to.”


It is so hard for these anchors to conceive that war occurs in the Western world. The dehumanization of Middle Eastern North African (MENA) groups continues despite the blatant reality of Russian forces violently invading Ukraine. War is not a natural state of being in the Middle East any more than in other countries. 

There are many Iraqi and refugee students who attend Grossmont College. In fact, out of the entirety of America, East County’s population of Iraqis is rivaled only by Detroit. The view that Middle Eastern people are unlike their white neighbors is a damaging narrative that only serves to divide the country further. 

“If someone has an accent or looks ‘not-American’–in the business world especially–oftentimes employees feel that they can be superior,” said Richard Kassab, a Chaldean technology sales director from El Cajon. “These comments by are analogous to this experience…comments like that are rooted in a specific prejudice, bias, and bad instinct. That kind of mentality comes from a society that trends toward selfishness and greed.”

Selfishness and greed are why war rages on around the world, not just in the Middle East. To blame the inhabitants of war-ridden areas is to ignore the actions of governing bodies, twisted politics, and self-serving intentions. 

“Our best interest cannot come at the cost of our morality,” Kassab said. 

Ingrained prejudice and racist views must be released to reach real progress as a community. The Western world is no better than any other nation because of cultural differences. Those who made those allegedly racist comments may have believed they showed solidarity for the Ukrainian people. Still, they disregarded the pain and horror that MENA people have gone through.