A note from our editor, Elizabeth MacBride:
The Biden administration announced recently that the United States would accept as many as 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. That’s a sharp contrast to the policies of recent years. Democrats tend to be a bit more welcoming compared with the Trump Administration, which cut off most refugees entirely, but not really: President Obama, for instance, agreed to accept 10,000 Syrians at the height of the Civil War in 2015, the same year Germany took in 1.5 million and countries in the Middle East like Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon were taking multiple millions.
First of all, I’ll believe the proposed welcome mat when I see it. The United States has a punitive asylum program – we quiz people like crazy before we let them through the golden door. Despite Americans’ perception of ourselves as warmly welcoming of immigrants, we haven’t been, for quite some time.
It’s easy to see the welcome to Ukrainians as a matter of race. They’re white, not brown. I can only imagine how it feels to be in a refugee camp in Africa, or to be a Palestinian, or a Syrian in Jordan, unable to return home or to start to rebuild – and meanwhile, the U.S. seems uniquely hypocritical.
The refugees I met on many trips to the Middle East were – I can’t emphasize this enough – just like you and me. There were lawyers, doctors, school teachers and wedding photographers among them. The same will be true of Ukrainians Disasters and wars happen to people. We don’t want to think they could happen to us, so there’s a human tendency to put people who have been victims into a category that we could never belong to. But I wouldn’t look at the difference between the way we’re treating Ukrainians and the way the United States treats refugees from other parts of the world purely as a question of race. The truth is we find a million reasons not to welcome the stranger.
And the other truth and the one I think many of the domestic entertainment-media world, which has been highlighting the race question, is ignoring, is that geography still does matter. NATO matters. We’d much rather return to fighting our culture wars than we would look at the new realities of a world in which Russia is a threat, again.
Regular readers of my editor’s note might remember that I wrote about the connections between the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and Google months ago, especially the link between it and Schmidt Futures, the philanthropy run by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Politico wrote about it last week. But you read it here first. This is what my journalism professors would have called an old-fashioned scoop.