“They are people like you and me. I’ve seen Dolce & Gabbana bags, Louis Vuitton clothes, in other words, people who could perfectly well be in Madrid. They are people like us who live in completely deplorable conditions,” said a Spanish journalist as he recounted the humanitarian misfortune caused by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
We have witnessed episodes of this kind during war coverage, where the classism and racism of many reporters is exposed as “blue-eyed blondes” arrive in EU countries.
However, it seems to me that it is worth sitting down and reflecting briefly on this issue and taking our attention away for a moment from the human stupidity put in front of a microphone; and which all of us journalists could fall into in a moment of carelessness.
When I made a documentary on the Colombian border with Venezuela—where there is currently a migration crisis resulting from the socialist dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro—I certainly came to think: “These people are like me. It’s me who could be there.”
Phrases that are not politically correct today, may hide behind them a phenomenon that is fundamental to care for those in need: empathy. Being able to put yourself in their shoes. When this happens, the heart leaps and solidarity is activated.
However, there is something in our consciousness-raising process that needs to change. To the phrase “people like us,” we must add a comma, so that it says that they are “people, like us.”
It is essential to understand that it is not only those who resemble you physically, in their convictions or beliefs, who are worthy of your help. We are people. We are human. We can all be in the situation of a Venezuelan who is fleeing, a Ukrainian who wants protection, a Syrian who wants a better future for her children, a persecuted Haitian, a desperate Nicaraguan or an Afghan who is left with nothing.
That our generosity is conditioned by the colour of our skin or the country we come from is something that has to change. Let’s start by admitting it so that we can correct it.