This weekend, I re-posted a couple of videos illustrating the shocking racial bias we are currently seeing in the way the Western media is covering the Ukraine crisis right now. I know some will say these are isolated incidents, but unfortunately there have been way too many of these "incidents" now, in various different countries, for it to be anecdotic anymore.
What we are seeing expressed here is a clear hierarchization of human beings — based on their origin, skin color, religion and culture — illustrating, sometimes very explicitly, how Black and Brown lives are simply just worth less.
This was also highlighted by the very timid and tentative media coverage of the difficulties faced by Black and Brown people as they try to flee from war zones in Ukraine, despite alarming accounts about people of color (including women and children) being segregated and left stranded in the cold after being blocked from boarding trains and buses to cross the border to Poland to reach safety. In fact, people who have tried to speak up about it on social media have actually reported being shamed, gaslighted and made to feel guilty about speaking up, as their comments are deemed "inappropriate" and "poorly timed" in the face of the tragedy unfolding. (Check this excellent video by HR expert and anti-racism advocate, Shereen Daniels).
What is racial gaslighting?
Racial gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation used to make a person second guess their own experience of racism. In this tactic, the person is being made to question themselves and how they react to racist behaviors or comments, thereby distracting attention away from the racism itself.
It is frustrating, discouraging, exhausting, humiliating. It is why so many people choose to cope in silence.
Why am I talking about resilience in this context?
Many months after the global wave of support for the #BlackLivesMatter & #StopAsianHate movements, and the many commitments made all across Europe and the US for more racial justice, seeing prejudice being normalized like this in mainstream media in 2022 is unsettling to say the least. It is shocking to see just how little progress we’ve actually made in this area.
We are disappointed, tired and emotionally exhausted.
As the resilience of Black & Brown people is being tested yet again, we are also reminded about just how resilient and deeply engrained racial biases really are.
“You always told me ‘It takes time.’ It’s taken my father’s time, my mother’s time, my uncle’s time, my brothers’ and my sisters’ time. How much time do you want for your progress?” ~ James Baldwin
We are reminded that it is not just about specific individual behaviors; it is about the complacency for such behaviors; it is about very deep and persistent systemic biases and cultural patterns which need to be disrupted and dismantled, by decolonizing education, health, justice, workplaces, media and overall representations.
“White supremacy is not a shark; it is the water.” ~ Guante
If now isn’t the time to talk about racism and anti-Blackness in Ukraine, when is?, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu
9 Resilience tips for Black People (and People of Color), BLACK.BY.US
Allyship at Work | How to Turn Intentions into Actions, Dr Waajida L. Small
The Pervasiveness Of Racism And Bias In The Media, Janice Gassam Asare, Forbes
Racial Bias in Ukraine coverage, Nadine White, The Independent (concrete examples and quotes, including France, UK and US, to help you counter gaslighting attempts)