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  • Writer's pictureKaren L

Yes, They Look Like Us

Yes, the victims of the war in Ukraine look like me, or I look like them. They are European and so is my background. Yes, I feel a connection. However, that does not mean that I do not care deeply about refugees and prisoners from Afghanistan or Xinjiang province in China. I feel anguish for typhoon victims in the Philipines and desperately ill patients in India. It is ok to see a similarity and then an immediate connection with strangers. Noticing a physical resemblance is just that and nothing more.

I am not more horrified because violence is happening in Europe. That continent is certainly no stranger to war. Seeing the color of someone's skin or hearing a language and noting its difference to one's own does not make one a racist. What a ridiculous idea.

Color blindness does not and should not exist. If someone says that they do not see skin color, I worry. Two--three year old children see the various shades and colors of humans. We are different obviously. To observe does not equal action. Observation should end with a thought. Often people who claim they are "color blind" do not monitor their own subtle reactions, rendering them blind indeed.

When we use racial, language, gender, ethnic, and religious diversity to speak out or make decisions based on those differences, we head into troublesome areas. I daresy having a racially insensitive thought is not horrible either. The well known author Ibram X. Kendi, who wrote How to be an Anti-Racist, proposed that we all have racist thoughts at one time or another. But thoughts do not equal actions. This is basic information from introductory Human Behavior courses. Awareness allows us to realize our racist thoughts and work to alter them.

There are numerous instances when I know the media, first responders, and professionals pay more attention to white people than those of color with often tragic consequences. Or the converse--treating people of color worse than white individuals. That is not a new idea, very well established in fact, and an example of systemic racism.

But the war in Ukraine is not one of those cases. Except, of course, when African and Middle Eastern students were pushed back at borders, escaping hostilities. We are faced with frightening consequences which we typically repress, nuclear war. Our governmental leaders are confronted with making very sensitive decisions--assisting a sovereign nation and risking the unthinkable by a ruthless, evil leader or merely providing economic sanctions, strong as they may be. I do not view the present crisis as a racial one. Everyone on this earth is affected. Leaders of Asian, African, and Middle Eastern countries figure into the equation. Whom do they support?

While I am on the topic, the war is not a Jewish issue either. Jews live in Ukraine and in Russia. This is a human tragedy. Some Ukrainians were complicit with the Nazis and Soviets in killing Jews; but, that has no bearing on the present conflict. I only mention this because I have heard Jewish people make insensitive comments about Ukraine. Anti semitism was rampant and remains a problem in Europe. But that should never be the basis for decisions in 2022. Germany--the best example--among other nations have taken responsibility for the past.

© 2022 Karen Levi

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