Media Coverage of Russia & Ukraine Reveals Racist Undertones


Canva Illustration by Marlene Garcia/ The Runner

Ernesto Leon, Assistant Features Editor

The unjust invasion of Ukraine by Russia has been all over the news worldwide. With such a mass amount of coverage, there have been way too many situations of prejudiced reporting when it comes to this topic, especially by Western media. It’s important to call it out and have individuals reassess themselves before making comments that add to the racial and ethnic discrimination that exists in our society.  

It’s significant to explain that racism is a very complex term. It’s so much more than a personal ideology, more than anything it’s a system. David T. Wellman, who is well known for his contribution to racial studies with his book “Portraits of White Racism,” gives a very accurate definition of what many see as racism today being a mix of cultural messages which is the focus here, but also policies and actions of individuals in a society.  

An example of this prejudicial coverage was in an on-air segment by NBC News correspondent Kelly Cobiela, who said, “These are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from Ukraine… These are Christians, they’re white, they’re very similar.”  

This was a statement made on national TV. Is she directly saying that white refugees are more important to care about than middle eastern refugeesNo. Is that the implication I’m getting? Yes. This is the type of racism that is a lot more common in society, and we saw it again on national TV.  

On an on-air segment by CBS News with Charlie D’agata, a foreign news correspondent said, “This isn’t a place (Ukraine) like Iraq or Afghanistan, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European city where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”  

The word that really gets me here is civilized.” War and violence do not belong to BIPOC communities, and it’s tiring to view cultural messages like this on such grand platforms. I’m tired of the Angry Black Woman” trope, the Crime committing Mexican trope, the savage Native trope, and the many others that exist for marginalized communities. As people, we should hope that war is not wanted anywhere, not just in European nations.   

There was also a statement made by Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Ukraine, David Sakvarelidze, on BBC news that demonstrated how much society links whiteness to validness“It’s very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed.”  

Now, death is sad no matter the reason, but it’s interesting to think of why he would add those physical features to his statement. To garner more sympathy? To try and appeal to certain people? I don’t know, but what I do know is that it’s this rhetoric that will continue to dehumanize people who don’t fit into the standard.  

I want to end this off by giving what I believe is the best advice to help deter these types of microaggressions that happen in our communities and relationships. It’s advice that I got from Ibram X. Kendi, from his research known as a term as “anti-racist.” In order to truly make a more justified society, a world that thinks before it speaks we have to seek to be anti-racist. It’s not enough to be passive about racism because that is still contributing to the problem. One has to actively seek to speak out against injustice as well as want to learn why the issues are there and the best way to solve them.