Xenophobic: intense or irrational fear or dislike of people from other countries.
Do you remember “freedom fries?” In 2003, when France openly opposed the war with Iraq, our government (who get paid a whole lot more than I do, btw) decided to change the name of French Fries served in the Congressional cafeteria to “Freedom Fries!” We’ll show you! Though this maneuver was obviously a highly intelligent act of protest (*sigh*), the dislike or fear of foreigners has been ever present throughout history (and is perpetuated by antics like the Freedom Fries incident).
Xenophobia is a toxic feeling and is used to justify all sorts of atrocities. Why is it that we (humans) fear the unfamiliar? Why do we fear our neighbors? Foreigners represent “the other.” Something other than ourselves; strange, different, alien. We fear the loss of our cultural identity. We see skin color as somehow defining our character and the mixing of races somehow contaminates that. OK, so it’s true that we (big WE) have done some hard work on overcoming these feelings. But there’s a long way to go (as evidenced by our ongoing need to identify one group as “the other” and try to oppress them).
How many people still see someone of Middle Eastern descent and feel uneasy? My family is Hispanic and my mother is often stopped for extra screening at the airport because she looks Middle Eastern. She’s not. But what if she were? My mother is a pacifist. She’s the person least likely to be a threat, especially on planes, which make her nervous. Of course, you can’t tell that by her complexion or the shape of her nose. But we’ve created a security system built around racial profiling. Here’s the problem. The people who actually want to hurt us are paying attention. If we create our system around the concept of “the other,” the logical step for someone who wants to beat the system is to make sure the next evildoers are “us.” (P.S. using the word evildoers here made me cringe, but I’m going with it anyway).
It’s a vicious circle. What do you think? Am I way off base here? Chime in. Your thoughts on this topic are very welcome (but please keep it constructive).
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