Zoe Denton is an English sophomore and opinion columnist for Mustang News. The views expressed in this piece don’t necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

Is a refugee a burden on another country or are they welcomed with open arms? It depends on if they’re European or not — it depends if the media sees them as people who “look like us,” a direct quote from CBS reporter Chris D’Agata.  

The Ukrainian Refugee Crisis has been shaped by the narrative that Ukranians are strong and persevering freedom fighters as opposed to non-European refugee crises where refugees of color are infantilized and portrayed as helpless. This desensitized these people from others around the world. 

This theme is represented in media across the board, even the New York Times has published articles titled “Putin picked the wrong country to mess with.”

While the strength of the Ukrainian people is admirable, this humanization of the victims of this war hasn’t been done in similar crises in the Middle East, especially throughout the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Syrians have been represented as victims and as people who “sneak” into bordering nations while Ukrainians “cross.” 

Why is that?

People would rather rally behind an underdog who is giving it their all and might just win, and then turn away when they see prolonged suffering that their own country might even be partially responsible for. 

There is a strong narrative of Ukrainians being the essence of strength and having the perseverance to fight back by focusing on those who are fighting, opposed to the millions fleeing. While these messages are incredibly important in boosting morale and letting Ukraine know we are on their side, these words are reserved for European countries only. 

Conflict in the Middle East has been going on for decades, and the media has exclusively focused on the impact these refugees are placing on surrounding countries, not on their strength or any characteristics of their personality. The media has humanized victims of war in this crisis which has not been the case for victims of war who are people of color who instead are portrayed more as an inescapable product of their environment.  

Additionally, news reporters, such as Charlie D’Agata from CBS, are stating during reporting that Ukranians are “Europeans leaving in cars that look like ours.” This not so subtly says that we should care more about Ukranians because they look like us, not because of their innate value as human beings who are deserving of safety and security. 

The news media today paints a narrative in the Middle East of chronic war and internal conflict that is a statement of countries in the region. Europe on the other hand, is far removed from such uncivilized behavior and is just now beginning to experience war for the very first time. Headlines make it seem as though conflict is meant to happen there and it should be kept apart from European affairs. 

There is a huge double standard with accepting refugees because of this war. Europe apparently does have the capacity to accept refugees with welcoming arms, but only if they’re from Europe. Syrians are left to fend for themselves while Europe withholds aid they are willing to offer to other white Europeans.

The handling of both these refugee crises highlights one thing: it does not matter if it’s a humanitarian crisis, the privileged will always help each other with a level of care that is not awarded to those who do not fit into their mold. 

How the media frames tragic events around the world matters — a lot. We rely on news outlets to frame these stories without bias, but when they do, it can have devastating effects.