What is xenophobia?
We explain what xenophobia is, what are its causes and examples. In addition, its relationship with racism and discrimination.
What is xenophobia?
It is called xenophobia to fear, contempt or hatred of people who come from a nation or a culture different from their own , that is, foreigners, including their cultural manifestations, their language or anything that can be associated with the foreign.
Xenophobia oscillates in its manifestations between intense and violent variants, capable of leading to crimes (murders, beatings, etc.) to more tame forms of rejection. One of the most common variants of xenophobia is that which is based on racial distinctions, that is, racism .
The origin of xenophobia could be assumed at the beginning of human civilization , when groups and communities were weak and primitive and any stranger represented a threat to them that had to be responded strongly.
Thus, the feelings of primitive human civilization could be a cultural remnant of our evolution as a species, or they may be the result of social trauma , or attempts to find a convenient culprit for the problems that a community faces. It is no accident that in the moments of crisis, foreigners are the first to be accused as responsible.
Xenophobic attitudes, gestures and actions are not only ethically reprehensible for most modern nations , but also illegal: many criminal codes contemplate them as a crime punishable by law , in an attempt to prevent hate speech and social revenge, which at least in the West they usually come from reactionary positions, usually from the extreme right.
Examples of xenophobia
Examples to illustrate xenophobia abound in human history, unfortunately:
- The persecution of the Jews in the Europe of Nazism . The National Socialist government headed by Adolph Hitler, trigger of World War II and the tragedy known as the Jewish Holocaust, enacted legislation in the mid-twentieth century that snatched citizens of Jewish origin and other foreign peoples considered “inferior” (gypsies) , Slavs, etc.) all kinds of civil rights and reduced them to the notion of slaves .
- The segregation in the i sla the Spanish . This Caribbean island is home to two different countries: Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the hemisphere, and the Dominican Republic. The first is an old French colony, the second Spanish. And between the two there is a border that is sustained not only by political geography, but by the rejection of the Dominicans towards their poorest neighbors, preventing them from passing and often treating them as threatening agents.
- The Arab-Palestinian conflict . With deep roots in the twentieth century, this conflict confronts the nation of Israel, founded in 1948, against its neighbors of Arab origin, especially the Palestinians, who occupied the territory in which the young Jewish nation was established. This complex conflict has resulted in hostilities and wars between both sides, and not a few acts of xenophobic violence by Israel , a more powerful state and allied to the US, such as massacres, expulsions and illegal land grabs.
- US-Mexico border . The intense Mexican and Central American migration to the US has caused enormous tensions in the border area of both countries, causing US ranchers to violently reject the presence of migrants (whom they call wetbacks , “wet backs”), and fostering a xenophobic policy of deportations and persecutions, which considers Mexicans responsible for American evils.
Racism and xenophobia
While they are not the same, xenophobia and racism often go hand in hand . Racist considerations, which distinguish between one individual and another simply by the color of their skin or ethnicity, take these individuals as strangers, that is, as outsiders to the community, applying a somewhat childish notion of “ purity ”or“ nature ”that has nothing to do with the history of the constitution of nations, in which migrants and cultural and racial exchanges have been great engines of growth and cultural wealth.
However, racism can occur among individuals of the same nation , as is often the case in multiethnic nations or products of colonial origins.
Most modern western states have enacted laws against racism and fosters ethnic diversity as a value , but a true culture of racial equity is yet to be built.
Both racism and xenophobia are forms of discrimination , that is, granting or withdrawing opportunities, aid or benefits to various individuals or social groups based on their nationality, ethnicity or other characteristics, such as sexual orientation (as denounced by LGBT collectivities), biological sex (as feminism denounces) or religion .
So discrimination can be defined as the rejection of a certain human group due to prejudices , tribal hatreds or purist notions of culture, resulting in an exclusion and an imbalance of opportunities. The macho , to cite one example, represents a form of exclusion towards women and to various forms of masculinity.