The term xenophobia refers to the fear of that which is different, foreign or strange. Xenophobia is an irrational and unreasoned fear or hatred for people or ideas perceived as foreign. The origin of the word comes from the Greek word for "fear" (phobos) and the Greek word for “stranger” (xenos). Discover some real-world examples of xenophobia.
What Is Xenophobia?
Xenophobia can be defined as a deep-rooted, irrational hatred towards or fear of foreigners, or of ideas or beliefs that are perceived as foreign, strange or outside of the norm. As a result, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which was adopted in 1993 during the World Conference on Human Rights, 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:
- cultural xenophobia - This type of xenophobia is cultural in nature. Those who are xenophobic are so against the objects and elements of a culture, such as clothing or language.
- immigrant xenophobia - This type of xenophobia occurs when an entire group is not considered part of society. This usually results from mass immigration by one group into a country, though xenophobia can be present in relation to groups that immigrated to the community quite some time ago. It can result in hostility and violence on a micro level, or lead to greater persecution of the group that goes as far as genocide.
Real-World Examples of Xenophobia in Action
Unfortunately, there are many examples of xenophobia in action in the real world.
- The Holocaust of World War II is a horrific example of xenophobia. It was an effort to exterminate the Jewish people due to their religious beliefs and practices.
- The murder of Black families by the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist hate group that targets black people, is another horrific illustration of xenophobia.
- The Indian caste system, which results in people being classified as untouchable based on the caste into which they are born, has been described as xenophobic.
- Exhibits of humans from Africa, the Philippines and tribal pygmies were put on display in the 19th century in human zoos. Such dehumanizing actions are horrifying illustrations of xenophobia.
- During World War II, Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians were segregated from the larger population, losing basic rights and liberties.
- The Rwandan attempted “ethnic cleansing” resulted in the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and the rape of Tutsi women.
- Racially motivated xenophobic hate crimes committed against people from India that occurred in Australia during 2009 have been described as Hinduphobia.
- 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. They were motivated by extreme hatred and xenophobia.
- During 2018, riots broke out in Germany after immigrants from Syria and Iraq were accused of killing a German citizen. News reports indicated a xenophobic response, claiming that some protesters were accused of hunting down foreigners, while many more exhibited Nazi banners and gestures.
- The treatment of the Native Americans by colonists is considered the result of xenophobia. Native Americans' skin color, way of life and religious beliefs were foreign to the colonists, who feared and hated them before ultimately harming them and driving them away.
- The hate crimes committed against the Chinese in the late 1800s in the U.S. are the result of xenophobia. Hatred of Chinese immigrants was so rampant that the U.S. passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to prevent Chinese workers from coming to the country.
- During 2020, with the announcement that Covid-19 originated in China, anti-Asian xenophobia occurred in many locations throughout the world.
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.
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, unfortunately, all result in acquiring xenophobia.
Now that you know what xenophobia is and have an idea of some examples, you should have a better understanding of the topic. Knowing what xenophobia is, though, should make it clear that xenophobia is not a good thing. It leads to many negative outcomes. Now that you have explored this topic, focus on expanding your knowledge of other cultures so you can appreciate differences rather than fear or hate them. Start by exploring examples of culture. From there, discover examples of cultural diffusion in the world around you.