Causes and Effects of Xenophobia

The word xenophobia is made up of the Greek words ‘xenos’, which means strange or foreigner, and ‘phobos’, which means fear.
What is Xenophobia?
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When a person is born, the only people that he/she is comfortable around are the parents. Gradually, the child warms up to other family members and slowly gets used to them. His world, for a few years then, is limited only to his family. A big change is introduced into this world of his when he starts going to school. His circle of comfort now includes his teachers and classmates as well.

What I am trying to say here is that, a person, through the course of his life, meets strangers and makes acquaintances. In this process, there are some inhibitions at the beginning, but soon these are overcome. But this is not the case always. Some people find it difficult to mix with people who they deem are different from them; strangers from a different land. This irrational fear of strangers or foreigners is termed as xenophobia. There are various reasons that lead to this fear, and it brings out a range of emotions that vary from a biased attitude to violence.

Causes of Xenophobia
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The fear of foreigners can be attributed to the mismatch in the basic thinking process and culture. However, this reason is not all that there is to it. One of the reasons responsible for painting a negative picture of foreigners is their involvement in various crimes. This can create a feeling of alienation, and strangers are seen as someone who have come to reign chaos in the homelands of the local populace.
Another reason is the increase in competition for jobs because of the incoming ‘aliens’. The locals, along with the already existing competition, have to further face steep odds owing to the influx of foreigners. Even in case of the ones who are already employed, replacements are available, rather easily. Thus, foreigners become a threat to their jobs.

There can be a presence of ‘one bad apple’ among the incoming populace. But generalizing one negative experience from one foreigner or a bunch of them, and applying it to every stranger leads to xenophobia. Further, this hatred is passed along among the locals. Along with this, the hatred towards foreigners can be a reciprocated reaction when the roles were reversed.

The incoming strangers are also deemed as a danger to the culture, traditions, and customs of the locals. This is also the reason for the spread of xenophobia, as foreigners are seen as a threat to the local heritage and legacy. The migrations result in sharing of resources, including the natural ones, which can lead to a stress on the economy and the general lifestyle of the natives.

Xenophobic people find it stressful when they are exposed to the cultures or people that are unknown to them or they perceive as strange. They are anxious when dealing with people they are not comfortable with, and try to establish a supremacy over them. Those who are xenophobic do not easily trust, are hostility in their behavior, and can get abusive when dealing with those whom they hate or are afraid of.

Effects of Xenophobia
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One of the social impacts of Xenophobia is that it breeds an atmosphere of hostility and distrust in society. This can lead to the decline in the number of migrants to that particular society. This, in turn, has a negative impact on the economy, that will be deprived of the influx of talent and resources.
Escalation of this hostility can lead to a spree of violence, like the one seen in South Africa in 2008, which was the result of the prevailing mood in the nation. This xenophobic reaction is not new to the ‘Rainbow Nation’, as there have been several such scenarios in the Apartheid Era there, and these were expected to stop after democratic rule was established in the country in 1994. The recent hatred towards foreign nationals has, however, proved otherwise.

These attacks in South Africa were prominently against the Nigerians. Nigerians themselves are not unfamiliar with this kind of hatred towards foreigners, as the nation had seen a similar spate of killings in the 1980s, when many people of Ghanaian origin were charred to death.

One of the negative effects of xenophobia on a community is that, it will, more or less, turn into a closed one, where there will be no introduction of new ideologies, innovations, and thought processes. It will also have long-term effects on the tourists as well, who will be advised against and also prefer not to visit such a volatile region. This will result in the loss of a chunk of revenue, and various industries that come associated with the tourism sector will be hit.

Difference Between Racism and Xenophobia
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Now, both these can seem similar, but they are not, and the only similarity they possess is that both are intolerable practices responsible for a regressive society. Racism is the hatred towards the people who belong to a different race. Xenophobia, on the other hand, is hatred or fear of people who are perceived as strangers or foreigners having different cultural beliefs.
Xenophobia is the general failure to accept ‘others’. It usually builds on the existing bias and prejudiced notions that are prevalent in a society. A Sanskrit verse says, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, which means that a guest is equivalent to God. Well, one is left to wonder, will not this philosophy be helpful in negating the adverse psychological effects that xenophobia has?