…Nope, it’s not a bizarre fear of xylophones. That would be Xylophonophobia (true story – it’s a real thing).
Xenophobia (pronounced ‘Zeno-phobia’) is a dislike or prejudice towards people from other countries. The ‘phobia’ part is a bit problematic really, because Xenophobia isn’t actually a ‘fear’, it’s a societal or political problem. A bit like homophobia – when we say ‘-phobia’ we imply that it is an irrational fear that can’t be helped when in actuality, it can be helped.
An example of xenophobia would be a group of people at school, excluding Sandra from activities because she is Polish. They are not scared of her, they are prejudiced towards her because of her nationality.
Racism often gets mixed in with Xenophobia and the two often come hand in hand, however, xenophobia usually refers to a persons nationality and culture rather than exclusively their race. Unfortunately, there has been a significant rise in Xenophobia in the US and UK in recent times. The term, ‘go back to your own country’ gets thrown around a lot 🙄. If you’re on the receiving end of Xenophobic abuse, remember that the problem lies with that person, not with you.
Reasons why some people are Xenophobic:
They are unfamiliar with a particular nationality
They had a bad experience with one person of a particular nationality or heritage and therefore associate bad feelings towards everyone of that persuasion
Because of something that happened historically between various countries – for example: WWII
Ignorance or narrow-mindedness (so they don’t like, what they don’t know)
Belief in stereotypes (particularly negative ones)
Blindly following what the media says about immigrants (which is usually always negative)
Intolerance to religions other than their own
Inexperience with diversity – fear of the unknown
Not agreeing with the politics of a person’s country of origin
Opposition to the cultures of other countries/nationalities
Are you experiencing Xenophobic bullying?
A sharp increase in the (often negative) discussion of immigration both in the US and the UK online, in the media and in schools, means that more people are experiencing Xenophobic bullying and bad attitudes towards their nationality and culture. For example, in England ever since the European Union Referendum, hate crime has increased by up to 100% around the country.
Examples of Xenophobia and Xenophobic bullying include:
Making fun of someone’s nationality
Making prejudiced assumptions about a person based on where they come from – for example, saying that all French people like to eat snails.
Imitating or making fun of a person’s accent
Saying that someone is not welcome because they are from a different country
Actively excluding someone from events or conversations because of their nationality
Saying hurtful things about a person’s culture
Assuming that one culture is better than another
Physically harming or attacking someone because of their nationality
Sending hurtful comments online about someone based on where they are from/where they were born
Hating an entire country because of something that a handful of people from that country have done in the past
spreading hateful messages about a culture or nationality on social media.
Accusing immigrants of ‘stealing jobs or national services’ from the native inhabitants of a country.
Using derogatory names or ‘nicknames’ to refer to a person from a different country.
Not employing someone because they are foreign, even if they are fully qualified for the job and speak the required language fluently.
If you’re experiencing negativity at school or work which is based solely around your nationality or culture – you should report it. Xenophobia is considered to be a hate crime and you should not have to put up with it. We are lucky enough to live in a multicultural society which means we can share and enjoy lots of different traditions, foods, languages and cultures which is something that we think should be celebrated, not used against someone.
Start with reporting it to an adult such as a parent or teacher first. If it is serious – report it to the police. You can get full advice on how and where to report hate crime in our Ultimate Guide to Hate Crime, below.