Ukrainian Refugees

As members of the Black Faculty and Staff Caucus at Queen’s University, we are appalled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We denounce the violence, displacement, and suffering that is being senselessly inflicted on the residents of Ukraine. 

Responses to this tragedy, however, also remind us that racism continues to define whose lives are valued and whose are not. 

As we watch the situation unfold in the media, some of us are in contact with concerned communities on the ground. We are cognizant of the effects of this conflict on our colleagues and loved ones, especially those with connections to Ukraine. We commend the compassion that is being extended to Ukrainian citizens in their hour of great need, and yet we see how that compassion continues to be denied to racialized others whose experiences of displacement, loss and suffering are cast as different and less deserving. A selection of the media reports and other sources that have given rise to our concerns are provided at the end of this letter.

We are especially dismayed by explanations that seek to construct Ukrainian suffering as extraordinary and exceptional by normalizing violence in places outside the Euro-American world and casting Black and other people of colour as inured to the devastations of war. This narrative is rooted in the colonial division of humanity that continues to rely upon the production of racial categories to justify the denial of care in situations of disaster. 

We need to look no further than the racialized geopolitics of border control and policing that has taken place since the Ukrainian crisis began. We have seen videos and heard first-hand accounts about how Africans and other racialized peoples are being treated and denied refuge from the atrocities that are taking place. There are also racialized peoples, for example, the Roma people, whose experiences are erased. The exclusions happening in Ukraine are also happening in broader Europe and North America. Even as large-scale solidarity and humanitarian programs are rolled out for Ukrainians overnight, thousands of racialized migrants and refugees continue to languish in camps, forests, and detention centers with uncertainty about what their futures will be. We are amazed at the speed with which governments can respond to humanitarian needs when there is political will, and disturbed by the racialized hierarchy of statelessness and displacement that is being reinforced and reproduced. We reject and condemn this form of solidarity.
We are in solidarity with people in Ukraine as they face Imperial aggression. We are also committed to global solidarity that recognizes how war in all its forms (sanctions, consequences of climate catastrophes, famine, etc.) destroys lives and communities all around the world. The destruction that is taking place in Ukraine is already causing reverberations across the globe, creating the context for a fuel and food crisis that will produce new displacements, losses, and suffering. 

Which wars are recognized and reported on, who is offered assistance and who is left to die are questions that we should all care about. This is the time for governments, institutions, and individuals to be deeply reflective, reflexive, and engaged in an ethics of care for all, and this includes all of us in the Queen’s University community. As we consider ways to express our solidarity with Ukraine we call on our community to embrace accountable forms of engagement that challenge racial exceptionalism and nationalism and recognize the shared pain and suffering of all people being displaced and seeking refuge. This is not the time for a politics of exceptionalism. It is possible to stand with Ukraine and denounce racism.

--Queen’s Black Faculty and Staff Caucus (QBFSC)

Current and recent media:

Let the horror in Ukraine open our eyes to the suffering of war around the world | Nesrine Malik | The Guardian

Responses to the Invasion of Ukraine, Day 5, Day 9, Day 16 · London Review of Books

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK addresses racist abuse of Black and Asian refugees | The Independent

Europe's official, media handling of Ukrainian crisis exposes deep-rooted, racist policy against non-Europeans - Ukraine | ReliefWeb

Russia's invasion of Ukraine gets massive coverage — and that has consequences: Goats and Soda: NPR

Ukraine: The good, bad and ideal refugees (

The Guardian on Instagram: “A deluge of reports and footage posted on social media appears to show acts of discrimination and violence against African, Asian and…”

Related resources:

When is Life Grievable?

Statement on the invasion of Ukraine - Department of Sociology, York University

Belarus’ and Poland’s Shared Responsibility for Border Abuses | HRW

New Keywords: Migration and Borders

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