Bishop Talbert Swan: All Refugees Should Be Helped, Not Just When They Are White And From Europe

Bishop Talbert Swan: All Refugees Should Be Helped, Not Just When They Are White And From Europe


Photo: Bishop Talbert Swan, Aug. 28, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)/Photo: U.S. Border police chase migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into Texas, Sept. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

As floods of Ukrainian refugees flee across the border to escape Russia’s continued military attack, many are noticing the different treatment and perceptions of European refugees versus non-European refugees.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused one of the largest refugee movements in Europe since the end of World War II. By March 2, just a week into the war that began on Feb 24, 874,000 people were estimated to have crossed into neighboring countries, according to the ​​Global Detention Project. As many as 4 million could flee the country in the coming weeks, predicts the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The media, for one, has been accused of referring to the European refugees in kinder, gentler terms than refugees from other parts of the world. A white CBS reporter apologized for saying that Ukraine “isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully, too — city, where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”

Bishop Talbert Swan recently tweeted about the different treatment people are getting at the border.

“While empathetic Black people in America are donating money, advocating against the war, and praying for the people of Ukraine, Racist Ukrainians are blocking Africans from trains to escape the war torn nation. White supremacy and anti-Blackness are global,” he tweeted.

The outspoken Swan is a prelate of the Church of God in Christ, serving as the bishop of the Nova Scotia Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction in Canada.

“Refugees should be helped because they’re refugees, not because they’re white and from Europe,” Swan tweeted. “Y’all had different energy with the refugees were Haitian and Somalian. Stop with the racist hypocrisy.”

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There have been conflicts worldwide that have caused refugees to flee their homes and countries, but the Ukrainians, some say, are being looked at in a different light. 

“In The Telegraph, Daniel Hannan wrote an article about Ukraine that led, ‘They seem so like us.’ That’s what makes it so shocking. An anchor for Al-Jazeera English called Ukrainian refugees, quote, ‘middle-class people,’ in comparison to refugees from the Middle East and North Africa,” said NPR reporter Andrew Limbong during a recent broadcast of the radio news program “All Things Considered.”

Rana Khoury, a research associate at Princeton University who focuses on conflict and displacement, responded by saying, “We certainly do see it play out in terms of the politics of refugee reception in the idea of whose burden should it be to take refugees who are from the global South, the Middle East, Africa, versus, you know, who is welcome and who can be brought in here.”

Non-Ukrainian refugees are reportedly being treated differently. African students in Ukraine, for example, complained about being asked to wait for white Europeans to cross the border safely to Poland first.

Photo: Bishop Talbert Swan, III speaks at the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) / Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection mounted officers attempt to contain migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sept. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)