What is Xenophobia?
Xenophobia refers to the fear and/or hatred towards foreigners or people with different nationalities, culture, ethnicity, or background. Many people also use the term “xenophobia” and casually inter-change it with “racism” although there is quite a big difference between the two terms. Racism may almost always mean some form of anger or hatred towards people of different nationalities, while xenophobia may or may not involve hatred. Sometimes, xenophobia may just manifest itself as a feeling of fear or unease and anxiety towards “foreign” or “strange” people.
The fear involved in xenophobia may come from different aspects. Some people experience ill-feelings toward other cultures and nationalities because of a fear in losing one’s identity. Some also are extremely suspicious of other people’s activities and personalities that they resort to either “withdrawal” from the unpleasant situation or “aggression” towards the foreign people involved. Others have this extremist type of feeling that his/her culture or background is superior over the others with accompanying prejudice to other groups of people as inferior.
To further distance the word “xenophobia” from “racism”, many experts point out that the fear involved in xenophobia is irrational. This means that people who have this condition do not actually have control over their emotions and prejudices on people and situations. Unlike in racism, where much of the thoughts and actions involved are pre-determined, purposeful, and done at a person’s own free will. Another point is that xenophobia does not only involve feelings of fears towards foreigners or people with different nationalities. Fear may also be experienced with people who seem to be “foreign” or who are labeled as strangers. And since these feelings are uncontrollable, xenophobics have a chance to get better through behavioral and psychotherapies. Some may also be treated with anti-anxiety medications to help with the various symptoms of this condition like panic attacks, confusion, sweating, and/or trembling.