The term xenophobia refers to the fear of that which is different, foreign, or strange. Xenophobia is an irrational and unreasoned fear. The origin of the word comes from the Greek for “fear,” “phobos” and the Greek for “stranger,” “xenos.”
Real-World Examples of Xenophobia in Action
- The Jewish Holocaust
- The murder of black families by the Ku Klux Klan
- The Indian caste system which actively has hurts those in lower castes
- Exhibits of humans from Africa, the Philippines, and tribal pygmies were put on display in the 19th century in human zoos
- During World War II, Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians were segregated from the population and lost basic rights and liberties.
- The Rwandan attempted “ethnic cleansing” which resulted in the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and the rape of Tutsi women.
- Hate crimes against Indians in Australia in 2009
- The war in what was Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995 involved fighting between several ethnic groups that resulted in a massive amount of deaths. The groups involved were the Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks and Slovenes.
- Riots in France could be caused by xenophobia
- The treatment of the Native Americans by colonists is considered the result of xenophobia.
- The hate crimes committed against the Chinese in the late 1800's in the U.S.
- During and after World War I there was some anti-German sentiment that can be contributed to xenophobia.
As you can see, the consequences of xenophobia can be very serious. It is important to do everything possible to overcome xenophobia on a societal and widespread level in order to avoid problems that can stem from fear and prejudice.
The Oxford English Dictionary lists a very strongly worded definition of xenophobia: deep-rooted, irrational hatred towards foreigners. As a result, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action recommends and encourages nations to do all they can to prevent the acquisition or manifestation of xenophobia by its citizens.
There are two types of xenophobia:
- The first type is cultural in nature. Those who are xenophobic are so against the objects and elements of a culture, such as clothing or language.
- The second type of xenophobia is when an entire group is not considered part of the society. This can result, most often, from a mass immigration by one group into a country, though xenophobia can be present in relation to groups in the society who joined the community quite some time ago. This type of xenophobia can result in hostility and violence on a lower level up to greater persecution of the group through genocide.
Causes of Xenophobia
Xenophobia, while it is irrational, does have causes that can be attributed to its acquisition. Poor experiences with others from certain groups, a generalized fear of that which is different, propaganda or exposure to implicit or explicit xenophobic behavior by others can all result in acquiring xenophobia.