Contributor: Jay Gregorio. Lesson ID: 13215
Sadly, some have a strong sense of distrust and hatred for people who are foreign or perceived to be foreign. This lesson explores xenophobia and ways to promote acceptance despite our differences!
If you have a fear of spiders, it is called arachnophobia. A fear of heights is acrophobia, while fear of being alone is autophobia. There's a long list of fears and phobias.
Xenophobia is the fear or hatred of anything foreign, particularly people from other countries.
That is an example of xenophobic behavior.
In this lesson, we will take a look at xenophobia through a different lens!
The Signs of Xenophobia
When you hear the word phobia, you associate it with fear; however, that's not always the case.
Xenophobia is not about being scared of foreign people, places, or things. Rather, it is about developing hatred and distrust specifically toward others who are not like you.
The word xenophobia only entered English in the late 1800s. It comes from two Greek words: xénos meaning "stranger, guest," and phóbos meaning "fear, panic."
Yet by the year 2016, the word xenophobia was nominated as Dictionary.com's word of the year.
It is interesting to explore how xenophobia compares with racism. While the terms are similar, xenophobia usually refers to a person's nationality and culture while racism deals exclusively with their race.
Let's look at some examples of xenophobia:
Sarah is a new student, so her teacher assigns her to an existing group for the class project. Sarah is Asian, and her new groupmates think her culture and nationality mean she will not get along well with them. So they exclude her.
Muhammed is a well-educated, young Iranian who moved to New York and now works as an accountant. While leaving for lunch, he overhears one coworker remark to another, "I don't know about this new Iranian guy. I want to work with real Americans!"
Both situations have presented preconceived notions or assumptions about being different.
In Sarah's case, her groupmates assumed that she will not get along with them because of her culture and nationality, while Muhammed's officemates didn't even know anything about him at all!
These types of xenophobic behaviors stem from several reasons:
Unfamiliarity with the Nationality and Culture
Also called fear of the unknown, unfamiliar situations can be scary.
Xenophobics use their own familiar culture and beliefs to identify who they will consider acceptable. These will be the people who behave, think, and feel the same way they do. Therefore, meeting new people and observing a totally different culture can be overwhelming and scary.
Association with Negative Experiences
Sometimes, if we experience something traumatic or difficult at the hands of a person, we associate that experience with new people who are similar.
Xenophobics who have an untoward experience with someone may feel indifferent during future interactions with people from this culture or nation. Often, this indifference will eventually lead to a dislike for anyone from there.
Influence of Media
Images and other forms of media can alter our thoughts about a particular nation or group of people, which eventually leads to stereotypes.
When you always believe what you see and hear on television, radio, or the internet, a negative portrayal of a certain group of nationals can easily affect you.
Disagreement and Intolerance of Others
Some people may feel strongly about the practices and traditions of other cultures or groups of people. These personal preferences and inability to develop an understanding that being different can be an advantage lead to xenophobic behaviors.
Explore xenophobia further with any (or all) of these resources:
There are many examples of xenophobia infilitrating our society, where the ideology of being superior over another led to the hatred of those foreign nationals, causing tragedy.
In the Got It? section, we will explore these examples and see if we can distinguish xenophobic behaviors.
Resources Referenced in the Lesson