Season 2, Episode 1: The Russian-Ukrainian Conflict from an Antiracist, Progressive Perspective: a Conversation with Dr. Clarence Lusane

A group in deep thought during the Accelerator in 2019.

For many people alarmed at the very visible anti-Black racism at the outset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago, it’s important to understand more about the history of Afro Ukrainians and Africans in Ukraine. This conversation between Dr. Clarence Lusane and Nicole Lee sheds some light. We’ll learn that it is not a new history.

Dr. Lusane, who has traveled and taught in Ukraine and all over the world, shared that after Ghana became independent from British colonial rule in 1957, and in 1960 when 17 other African countries gained their independence from colonial rule, thousands of students arrived in both Russia and Ukraine to study from countries all over Africa, including South Africa, Morocco and Tanzania. Thousands.

African students over the years have been drawn to Ukraine for studies including in STEM and medicine because it was relatively welcoming, inexpensive and easy to study there.

In 2014, after Russia invaded Crimea, pro-Russian, fascist, nationalistic militias rose up in eastern Ukraine, taking over the Donetsk and Luhansk republics. It was here in the east that African students were kidnapped and violently abused by these pro-right insurgents. 

Now, in addition to these Africans having arrived to study 60-65 years ago, there are second and third generation Afro-Ukrainians in Ukraine, as well as other diasporic Africans.

When Putin refers to neo-Nazism in Ukraine he is, not surprisingly, twisting facts and history. As is true most everywhere in the world, there are neo-Nazis in Ukraine, even serving in the Ukrainian government. Despite that, neo-Nazism does not drive Ukrainian public policy.

This conversation gets to the important nuance missed in reporting and social media. 

There is an important challenge toward the end responding to the question “What is the way forward for progressives?” 

We hope you’ll listen in.

About Dr. Clarence Lusane:

Dr. Clarence Lusane is a full Professor and former Chairman of Howard University’s Department of Political Science.  He is an author, activist, scholar, lecturer, and journalist. 

He has been in the fight for national and international human rights and justice for well over 40 years. He is a pioneer in anti-racism politics. He has written about and been active in U.S. foreign policy, democracy building, and social justice issues such as education, criminal justice, and drug policy.  His research focuses on the intersection of race and politics in the US and globally ranging from human rights and social equity to social movements and public policy.

As a scholar, researcher, policy-advocate, and activist, he has traveled to over 70 nations. He has lectured on U.S. race relations and human rights in Brazil, Colombia, China, Cuba, Germany, Guyana, Guadeloupe, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Korea, Pakistan, Panama, Rwanda, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine among others. 

He has taught and been on the faculty at Medgar Evers College, Columbia University and American University, and been a visiting professor and lecturer in the UK, Ukraine, France, Russia, South Korea, New Zealand and Japan.

In addition to his forthcoming book, Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman vs. Andrew Jackson and the Future of American Democracy, he is also the author of The Black History of the White House, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice: Foreign Policy, Race, and the New American Century; Hitler’s Black Victims: The Experiences of Afro-Germans, Africans, Afro-Europeans and African Americans During the Nazi Era; Race in the Global Era: African Americans at the Millennium; and Pipe Dream Blues:  Racism and the War on Drugs among others.

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