CBS News features historian who suggests Ukraine refugees are beneficiaries of alleged white privilege

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Echoing the sort of rhetoric usually heard from the likes of Joy Reid and Nikole Hannah-Jones, CBS News ran a report Saturday suggesting that white Ukrainian refugees benefit from so-called “white privilege.”

The report initially centered on seemingly legitimate, video-backed accusations that officials have been granting priority status to outgoing white refugees versus refugees of other races, including Indians, Asians, blacks, etc.

CBS News then brought it Kimberly St. Julian Varnon, a researcher who studies the “black experience,” to hear her perspective.

“You know, it’s—it’s– one of those things where if you are a person of color and you work in Eastern Europe and research Eastern Europe, racism isn’t new. I mean, the racial discrimination is not new, but to see it on display and being exacerbated by war, it was just really heart-wrenching,” she said of the accusations.

Watch the full segment below:

But the problem is that this whole narrative has already been debunked.

Human Rights Watch, one of the most respected human rights organisations on Earth, explained in a recent report that the discrimination that’s been seen hasn’t been based on race but rather on nationality.

“Interviews with three dozen foreign nationals, many of them international students, revealed a pattern of blocking or delaying foreigners from boarding buses and trains, apparently to prioritize evacuating Ukrainian women and children,” according to HRW.

While this is still morally and legally wrong, there is a difference.

To be clear, Ukrainian officials have denied even HRW’s reporting.

“Andriy Demchenko, a spokesperson for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine told Human Rights Watch that allegations of unfair treatment against foreigners ‘do not correspond with the truth,'” according to HRW.

“He contended that ‘Ukrainian border guards do not see nationality or color of passports,’ and said that nationals from foreign countries ‘tried to push forward and receive priority treatment.'”

One thing neither HRW nor CBS News mention is that all fighting-aged Ukrainian men are forbidden from leaving the country and have been ordered to stay and fight instead. It’s not clear whether any of the outgoing refugees who’ve complained about racial discrimination were Ukrainian men trying to illegally flee.

Continuing the discussion on CBS News, Varnon claimed there’s a difference between how Ukrainian refugees are being received in the rest of Europe versus how Syrian refugees who’d sought help at the Poland/Belarus border in December were treated.

“So I tried to point out this crisis we saw in December because it is very much the same situation of people fleeing a war and needing protection and care, but they’re not getting that,” she said.

“What is the difference, and why is there a difference?” a CBS News interviewer asked.

“I think the key difference is race and ethnicity. I mean, we’ve seen it in reporting and how people have said this, but also like the Bulgarian prime minister saying these aren’t the refugees we’re used to. These are educated refugees,” Varnon replied.

Not mentioned by Varnon was that the Syrians have been fleeing their war-torn nation for over a decade, whereas the crisis in Ukraine erupted just weeks ago.

Also not mentioned by her was that European countries have over the years accepted over one million Syrian asylum-seekers and refugees, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

“Across Europe, Syrians have been consistently afforded an international protection status, with the vast majority either been granted refugee status or subsidiary forms of protection while the minority benefiting from other humanitarian statuses,” UNHCR reported last year.

“Since the onset of the Syrian crisis in 2011, far over one million (1,076,360) international protection decisions on applications by Syrians have been taken by asylum authorities in EU+ countries.”

These sorts of facts were also ignored by CBS News’ Jericka Duncan, who concluded the report by pushing more false narratives.

“Students from Africa and other countries make up a small population, but as St. Julian Varnon explained, it’s not okay for people to be discriminated against in this way. She is in touch with several students who made it to Hungary and tells me that many of them, now considered third country nationals, have been told they have to move to another country or go back home within 30 days,” she said.

The fact that they have a “home” to return to goes back to the fact that they are foreign nationals, not Ukrainian citizens.

“I think, you know, I’ve gotten a lot of messages from people about this story. I’m glad that we were able to highlight it. A lot of people talking about it on social media, but it also brings into perspective the importance of not just recognizing this typical — you know, this specific humanitarian crisis, but there’s others, you now, other refugee crises, Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and we need to remember that,” Duncan concluded.

This rhetoric comes amid Reid claiming Ukrainian refugees are receiving special coverage because of they’re white, and Hannah-Jones claiming that the media — including outlets like CBS News, presumably? — only care about refugees “with blond hair aind blue eyes.”


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