Wednesday, May 18, 2011

X is for Xenophobia

Xenophobia – the hatred or fear of foreigners or strangers or of their politics or culture

Phobias in general are irrational fears. There are all sorts of phobias, and they often get confused or coupled with hatred. Just like animals, people lash out and go on the offensive when they’re afraid of something and we see it all the time with phobias. From my corner of the world, I’m especially sensitive to homophobia, which is the root of most hate crimes against gays.

Xenophobia, I believe, is fairly common amongst people. We inherently tend to stick with our own crowd, so to speak, in most situations. Given this great big “melting pot” of ours, it’s no wonder we’ve had a long history of not getting along. As an ESL teacher, I am as sensitive to xenophobia as I am to homophobia because I see it all the time. The hatred coupled with the fear of foreigners is everywhere and it’s not a good thing.

If you ask a person who obviously has a dislike for foreign people, especially Hispanics, they’ll tell you that it’s because of their legal status. Well I have some students that are legal and some that are not, but I treat them all the same. The whole legal issue is a convoluted one anyway, and besides, who’s to say how our ancestors got here in the first place? There was a time when all you had to do was get a boat ticket over here, be healthy and know someone. Welcome to America!

So, aside from the legal issues surrounding the foreigners who come to live here these days, and maybe the language barriers, there’s really no reason to fear them. In many ways, they’re very similar to us, with families, friends, hopes and dreams, etc. So if you feel you might be a sufferer of xenophobia, try and be aware of it…and the next time you see someone from another country, give em’ a smile, or even say hello. You never know, you might just make a new friend!

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