In the days following “The Slap Heard Around The World”, with the topic dominating every corner of the social media world, one repeated comment kept catching my eye. It was always a variation of this sentiment:
“Can we please focus on people suffering from real violence? Or have we forgotten about Ukraine?”
While I believe the complex realities of the Oscar events warrants serious and informed conversation, and while I think we are capable of focusing on more than one issue at a time, I at least understood the impulse. After all, in the ever-competitive, click-bait world of the internet, our attention span seems to be getting increasingly small.
And yet, when I pushed a little deeper on several of these comments, I realized that their call for focusing on “real victims” of “real violence” had its limits. In one conversation, I decided to agree with the person calling for a shift in focus, saying something like:
“We must be careful not to get distracted from this very real and present conflict, where innocent Ukrainians are suffering and dying every day.”
This pleased them a great deal, happy to have me as an ally to their point. However, that shifted when I added:
“And we need to recognize that some in Ukraine face especially high risks, such as people of colour and LGBTQ+ folks.”
Suddenly, I went from a comrade in arms to a “liberal opportunist high-jacking the conversation for my Marxist agenda”. Despite pointing out that I was agreeing with them, simply citing specific examples within the besieged population that faced higher risk because of their identities, I was firmly dismissed. I wish I could say that I was surprised but sadly, it was exactly what I have come to expect.
Despite the detractors, the evidence in support of this dynamic is there for us all to see. As early efforts to evacuate Ukraine began, many reports emerged of people of colour being forcibly stopped from boarding trains, with arguments that Ukrainian…