The way West sees the Ukraine crisis reveals its underlying white supremacy
Published: Mar 04, 2022 06:30 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

What kind of people in war zones deserve sympathy and tears? And what makes one decide to condemn a war? In the ongoing Ukraine clashes, Westerners gave their answer: skin color.

Since the Ukraine crisis started, there has been an outpouring of support for Ukrainians across the Western world. 

The US' CBS News senior correspondent in Kiev Charlie D'Agata said on February 25, "This isn't a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European […] city where you wouldn't expect that, or hope that it's going to happen."

Then the next day, the BBC hosted David Sakvarelidze, Ukraine's former deputy general prosecutor, who said "It's very emotional for me because I see European people with blonde hair and blue eyes being killed every day," while the BBC anchor responded, "I understand and of course respect the emotion."

And a commentator on France's BFM TV said, "We are in the 21st century, we are in a European city and we have cruise missile fire as though we were in Iraq or Afghanistan, can you imagine!"

When it is all about people forced to flee homes and suffering from the flames of war, why should the Europeans be deemed different from those in the Middle East and North Africa? The skewed coverage in the Western media exposes the true essence of white supremacy prevailing in the West, despite that the Westerners tout about so-called universal values every day.

Western hypocrisy 

When the City upon a hill, under the banner of "natural rights" and "humanitarian intervention," launched one war after another, its European followers eagerly lent a helping hand. Statistics show that the number of civilian deaths in the Iraq war was more than 200,000, and the number in the Afghan war and Syria war was 30,000 and 40,000 respectively. Nonetheless, there was seldom any anger or criticism from the West, not to mention sanctions or punishments against the culprit of these devastating wars.

In the eyes of Westerners, wars shouldn't happen in a "relatively civilized" Europe which hosts people with blonde hair and blue eyes. Their logic is that people from "non-white" regions such as Iraq and Afghanistan deserve war, while wars launched by the US and its European allies shouldn't be stopped and criticized. The West's exploitation of the Ukraine crisis in the past few days has been more than all its talking about Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen in the past few years.

The West's white supremacy and hypocrisy are fully exposed in accepting Ukraine refugees or what the Westerners call migrants. Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov reportedly said, "These are not the refugees we are used to … these people (Ukrainians) are Europeans [...] These people are intelligent, they are educated people." The implication is clear here: When someone talks about "people like us," it suggests that those who come from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa are not and that those non-European migrants are less intelligent, less educated and more dangerous.

The EU estimates that up to 4 million Ukrainians may try to leave the country, and the bloc has already relaxed its rules on accepting them and said its member states will welcome them with "open arms." German Interior Minister Nancy Feaser called for "finding non-bureaucratic solutions to bring the people as quickly as possible to safety." 

One should remember how hard Europe tried to close its door to refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. If Europe wants to showcase a humanitarian response toward Ukrainians, how can it explain its cold shoulders to the others?

Song Luzheng, a political scholar who is now living in France, told the Global Times that the West always advocates equality and diversity, but what it does is exactly the opposite. 

"Although denying white supremacy is politically correct in the West, what people do is catering to this underlying motto," said Song.

True nature of white supremacy

The white supremacist ideology has always existed in the Western world. Benjamin Disraeli, the UK's prime minister in the late 19th century and one of the most committed race ideologists of his time, put it, "race implies difference, difference implies superiority, and superiority leads to predominance."

The West's white supremacy could also be told from political cartoons during World War II. "Mimic," published in the Washington Post in 1942, is believed to be emblematic of the sharp dichotomy of the way Americans regarded the Axis Powers. While the "typical" Japanese individual is depicted as a primitive ape, the German enemy, symbolized by Hitler in the cartoon, is a realistic version of the leader, without barbaric and sub-human features.

When it comes to modern times, Westerners still hold a sense of identity that involves seeing white as a symbol of purity and virtue.

Nonetheless, white supremacy strips the race or people of color of their right to be human, of their right to self-definition and self-determination. It is no different than human rights violations.

White supremacy serves as the glue that connects and combines racism with colonialism. Shen Yi, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, told the Global Times that in nature, the West still believes in colonial-era doctrines - the whites were Suzerains and non-whites were vassal states. Therefore, the Westerners are indulged in Western exceptionalism and centralism. 

"The West has never ceased advocating colonialism. In the past, it used 'democracy', 'freedom' and 'human rights' as disguise, but now it is publicly flaunting its white supremacy," said Shen.

Shen noted that the reason is the West's decline. The ratio of the Western economy in the world economy is decreasing. The development of the West in the past is not attributed to the advancement of its development model, but its colonial history that played a decisive role in the accumulation of wealth. As the West gradually consumes its past laurels, and as other emerging powers rise, it feels the decline and views itself as a victim - the mentality of a victim makes it become isolated, xenophobic and self-centered.

Such a West is in no position to define civilization.

The author is an opinion editor with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn