When Skin Color Becomes a Passport

When the refugees are blonde-haired and blue-eyed, the reception is very, very different.

Marlon Weems
Published in
4 min readMar 4, 2022
Source: CBS News

Like virtually every person in the free world, I’m pulling for the citizens of Ukraine. Their plight is the real-life embodiment of David versus Goliath — good versus evil. I find myself pulling for them, despite their ridiculously long odds.

What is especially compelling to observe is the evolution of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president. He has risen to the occasion, going from a politically inexperienced comedian to a hero of almost mythic status.

With a storyline like this, one would think that the narrative pretty much writes itself. Unfortunately, some in the media keep saying the quiet part out loud. The first few days of the conflict have seen one incident after another of reporters displaying their blatantly racist, bigoted, and colonialist points of view — on live television.

The overarching implication is that the more white and European the refugees, the more deserving they are of the world’s support and empathy.

The media shows its racism

The media dips low-key racist tropes into their commentary so quickly reporters seem unable to prevent themselves from uttering the pejoratives.

For example, Charlie D’Agata, a senior foreign correspondent at CBS News, seems aware he is treading on shaky ground as he makes the following comments describing the difference between Ukrainian refugees and those hailing from Afghanistan or Iraq:

This 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.

The offensiveness of his comments notwithstanding, D’Agata seems not to recall that Iraq was quite civilized before the US invasion of 2003, as was Afghanistan until the Soviet Union attacked the country in 1979. His offensive comments are at the 11:20 mark in the video below.



Marlon Weems
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