Prince William is facing backlash for his comment that the Russian war on Ukraine is “very alien to see,” with many taking to social media to call out the royal for what they deemed a “racist” comment.
William made the remarks while on a visit to the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in London Thursday. He and Kate were there to meet with volunteers and hear about ongoing war relief in the U.K.
Footage from the event showed that the prince said: “Everyone is horrified by what they are seeing. The news every day, it’s almost unfathomable to actually witness it, to see it.
“For our generation, it’s very alien to see this in Europe. We’re all right behind you.”
Human rights lawyer Qasim Rashid questioned William’s inability to recognize the history of the British Empire.
“How do you have a 1000-year history of colonialism, a literal 100-year war, launch 2 World Wars, allow multiple genocides, and bomb a dozen nations since 9/11 alone — yet make this type of a statement?” Rashid asked on Twitter.
It should be noted that a Press Association story originally reported that the prince suggested Britons were more used to seeing conflict in Africa and Asia, but that account appears to be inaccurate. Royal reporter Richard Palmer apologized on Twitter, hours after the prince’s remarks were spreading like wildfire on the social media platform.
However, Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a prominent commentator on race in Britain, told Newsweek that William’s remarks still appear to be offensive, even without reference to other world regions.
“William says it’s alien in Europe. This is on the back of two weeks of Western media also saying it’s alien in Europe, also saying Western countries are civilized. I’m sorry, if it’s alien in Europe, where is he referring to it as being normal?” she told the publication.
“This future King of England parrots racist rhetoric shamelessly,” she tweeted, adding: “His caucacity [sic] after public backlash at Western media humanising White pain while dehumanising Black/Brown pain in #UkraineWar is a slap to our faces.”
American activist Bree Newsome called the prince’s comments “typical white supremacist colonizer ideology.”
Journalist Otto English said he’s “less inclined to attack Prince William for his ill-advised comments,” adding that he’s “more inclined to ask why the poorly articulated opinions of an unelected heir to a hereditary head of state should matter in 2022.”
William’s comments come after CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata was taken to task for calling Ukraine “relatively civilized” and unlike countries in the Middle East.
“This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conﬂict raging for decades,” D’Agata said on air, reports HuffPost.
“This is a relatively civilized, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully too — city, one where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”
D‘Agata later apologized, saying, “I spoke in a way I regret, and for that I’m sorry.”
Ever since the war began late last month, stories of racism directed at people of colour trying to flee Ukraine have made headlines.
NPR reports that Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov came under fire last week for saying his country would accept any number of refugees because “these people are intelligent, they are educated people. … This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists …”
Shortly after the invasion began, BBC reporter Stephanie Hegarty shared that she had witnessed a Nigerian student being refused safe passage into Poland from Ukraine.
“A Nigerian medical student at Poland/Ukraine border (Medyka-Shehyni) told me she has been waiting 7hrs to cross, she says border guards are stopping black people and sending them to the back of the queue, saying they have to let ‘Ukrainians’ through first,” Hegarty tweeted.
William and Kate expressed their “solidarity” with the people of Ukraine soon after Putin launched his attack, saying in a tweet “we stand with the President and all of Ukraine’s people as they bravely fight for that future.”
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskyy responded thanking them for their support.
“Olena and I are grateful to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge that at this crucial time, when Ukraine is courageously opposing Russia‘s invasion, they stand by our country and support our brave citizens,” he said.
“Good will triumph.”
England’s Royal Family has had to face a number of allegations of racism in the past year.
In March of 2021, William told reporters “we are very much not a racist family,” when responding to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s allegations that someone within the family had asked about their child Archie’s potential skin colour before his birth.
Months later, William was called out for comments he made linking Africa’s population to pressure on wildlife.
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