Difference between Racism and Xenophobia

As citizens of the world, it is important to know the difference between racism and xenophobia. Sometimes people think that xenophobia and racism are similar and can be used interchangeably. However, this is not the case as the two words are very different.

Xenophobia refers to aversion or fear of the unknown or something other than yourself. On the other hand, racism refers to the fact that any race determines the traits of the human being and its ability to make them superior to any other race.

What is Racism

Racism describes any action, practice, or belief that reflects the racial worldview, the ideology that humans can be divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called “races.” That there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morals, and other behavioral and cultural characteristics; and that some races are innately superior to others.

Since the late 20th century, the notion of biological race has been recognized as a cultural invention, completely without a scientific basis.

Historically, those who openly professed or practiced racism held that members of low-status races should be confined to low-status jobs. In addition to that members of the dominant race should have exclusive access to political power, economic resources, high-status jobs, and unrestricted civil rights.

The lived experience of racism for members of low-status races includes acts of physical violence, daily insults, and frequent acts and verbal expressions of contempt and disrespect. All of which have profound effects on self-esteem and social relationships.

Racism provokes hatred and mistrust and prevents any attempt to understand the victims. For that reason, most human societies have concluded that racism is wrong, at least in principle, and social trends have moved away from racism.

Many societies have begun to combat institutionalized racism by denouncing racist beliefs and practices and promoting human understanding in public policy, much like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, established by the United Nations in 1948.

Two types of discrimination:

  • Individual discrimination is that which an individual or group of individuals exercise against others. An example would be someone insulting immigrants.
  • Institutional discrimination: this is when the laws and institutions of a country legalize a situation of discrimination. An example would be apartheid South Africa or the United States until 1965.

What is Xenophobia

Xenophobia is defined as the irrational fear or aversion to those people who are different from us. This particularly manifests as a phobia of foreigners. The term originates from the Greek words xénos (strange) and póbos (fear).

However, although it is considered a phobia in the medical sense of the word, it is more commonly used to describe hostility or hatred felt particularly towards migrants, immigrants, and refugees from other countries.

Xenophobia comprises a variety of aspects that focus on prejudice. It may be based on discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, culture, or nationality. Xenophobic behavior or attitudes are often caused by the irrational fear that foreigners may pose a threat to the identity of a community or nation. People considered xenophobic often want to maintain the authenticity of their own culture or nation.

Politicians use the irrational fear of immigrants and foreigners to foment anger and dissension in society. There is little scientific evidence to support the fears reinforced by politicians about what happens to a country when they welcome immigrants, migrants, and refugees into their country. There is significant evidence, both economic and social, that immigrants help most countries.

Xenophobia: examples

Unlike racism, xenophobia does not have so much to do with skin color or race but with the unknown, for example, a person can have xenophobic attitudes towards an immigrant, who lives on the street in poverty,, However, he may be a great fan of a soccer player with the same skin color and who comes from the same country as that immigrant.

While the footballer understands it; dresses like him, and does the same as him, they are on the same cultural plane and he does not represent a threat, he sees the immigrant who lives on the street as a danger. That hatred and rejection are not born from the color of the skin but are born from ignorance and lack of knowledge about that group outside their own.

Difference between Racism and Xenophobia

Xenophobia is not only an aversion to a person, but it is a fear or aversion to other cultures and beliefs. It may be possible that the phobic person knows that he is against a group, that he does not accept the fact that he is really afraid, or that it is his fear.

A xenophobic person only has to think of one thing “that the target group is actually foreign”. This argument perfectly describes the difference between racism and xenophobia because a person belonging to a different race can have the same nationality. So while xenophobia is made up of multiple aspects, racism is based on just one aspect.

For example, homosexual people can easily become the target of a xenophobe while they will not be the target of racists. Some racists tried to prove that whites were superior to other races and that they were also superior to Jews. This gave rise to the rationalization of the holocaust.

Slavery and colonization in which Africans and people of African descent were treated as inferior races were also part of racism. Aside from this, racism also tried to rationalize homophobia where the logic was that anything that goes against God is sinful.

In racism, racists treat people belonging to one race with disrespect and cause humiliation. On the other hand, when people belonging to one culture fear another culture, they are called xenophobes. This is another difference between racism and xenophobia.

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