February, which was supposed to be the month of love, quickly did an about-turn and became the exact opposite as Russia decided that it was time to start a war with Ukraine. The reason for this centers around Ukraine’s involvement with NATO and Russia’s fear of having a neighbouring country in close alliance with their enemy. Although it’s still early days and we’re optimistic that a negotiation happens soon between all the major parties involved, we cannot help but reflect on how poorly Africans have been treated by the people in Ukraine thus far.
The Cable Index recently released a list that showed over 17,000 Africans were studying in Ukraine before the attack by Russia. It was further revealed that 3,302 people on this list are Nigerians. Now, this doesn’t include the Nigerians who may have migrated to Ukraine to live and work there, nor does it include Nigerians who have married Ukrainian parties or those who may only be visiting. We may never know the number of Nigerians and Africans living in Ukraine currently and the current situation makes it even scarier for them as yet again, they get to suffer for being black.
Over the past few days, numerous pictures and videos of black people getting barred from entering the trains transporting citizens away from the city to Poland for safety have circulated the internet. Many of these black folks show up to the train stations and get kicked off when they try to get on these trains. In some other videos, we see them appealing to the Ukrainian soldiers to allow them to get on the train as they are only unarmed students. These appeals only fall on deaf ears as the soldiers continue to train their rifles at them, barring them and only allowing Caucasians to go through.
It is very disheartening to see that while the rest of the world continues to pray and support Ukraine, they can still choose to be audacious in their display of racism towards black people who they ought to treat as their neighbours. For the longest time, black people have had to act as collateral damage in these situations and it is appalling to see that many years after all of the struggle to eradicate racism, it feels like nothing has changed.