Ukraine, Racism, and the Wars We Ignore

People fleeing Kyiv
Photo by Murat Saka via Getty
Baratunde Thurston
March 11, 2022

I’ve been feeling more tired than usual these past two weeks. It took me a few days to identify the reason. Maybe it was the rapid unmasking of my fellow Americans? Or was it the fact that I took two cross-country flights in five days? No, it turns out the real reason for my fatigue was that I hadn’t scheduled a war in my calendar. Yet war has been occupying my mind, my heart, and my screens. Watching Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has drained, enraged, and inspired me all at once. 

I don’t generally operate on a daily basis with Ukraine or Russia on my mind. That changed within two days of the invasion after a friend from Eastern Europe, currently living close to me in Southern California, asked his American wife whether his family could move in with them, if it came to that. Without warning, I found myself near tears. This couple had previously been plotting the reverse migration: spending more time in Europe, that civilized place where universal healthcare is the norm and school and childcare costs don’t bankrupt families. But suddenly America looked safer and more stable, even with our wealth inequality and no-longer-notable school shootings. Being in Putin’s line of fire was a clearer and more present danger.