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Xenophobia, the Other Face of Racism

Alexander Dawoody

America is the land of immigrants. This unique quality is
both a blessing and a source of ongoing problems. The blessing arrives
from the fact that it is the composition of many different immigrant
populations that brought to the young country talent, expertise, skills,
hard work and dedication that contributed to the building of the nation
and making it the most powerful on earth. It does not take long for one
to look at America and witness the world assembled in its mosaic. Yet,
and despite the uniqueness of this blessing, the American mosaic has its
troubling aspect as well, manifested in tensions that burp out in forms
of racism. However, due to the collective good of the American people
and the progressive policies to create a better and more integrated and
cooperative human society, this ugly symptom is gradually fading and
retreating to the trash bin of history. The recent election of Barack
Obama by majority of Americans as the first African-American President
of the United States is an example of this direction. 

With globalization, however, racism is giving birth to
another form of hate and discrimination. It is known as xenophobia (or
the fear of foreigners). Unlike its predecessor, this form is hidden,
devious, and often packaged within layers of established social and
institutional codes of behavior. It is often manifested in protectionist
policies, the practice of various organizations, the behavior of a few
individuals in key decision-making positions both in public and the
private sectors, the media, the entertainment industry, and academia. 

With the rise of globalization and the interconnectedness
of languages, cultures, expertise, and human communities, and with the
increase of America’s weaving into the fabric of global economic,
political, and social affairs, xenophobia is burping out as a reaction
to paranoia, resentments and hatred, especially by those who feel
threatened and marginalized by cooperative globalization. Hence, racism
is resurfacing once again but within an innovative form of phobia by
targeting groups of human beings who are now considered as the new

Unlike classic racism which is a pronounced and
articulated form of hatred, xenophobia and to a larger extend is
disguised within established professional codes. It aim is to maintain
America within pre-globalization ethnicities while disallowing what are
considered to be “new comers” from taking part within this mosaic or
establishing their roots in the country. And unlike classic racism, this
tendency lacks clear economic objective. Anyone from abroad is a target
as long as the person is a newcomer (a foreigner), despite the
newcomer’s economic status. Yet, and even within this blanket form of
phobia there is a prioritization of hatred set by an individual’s ties
to regionally-oriented political events. 

If the newcomer, for example, is from a country or region
that has produced an intense political event that is still stressing,
that person may be prioritized by xenophobia as hate target number one
simply for guilt by regional association with the generating region of
such tension. An Iraqi, for example, may be regarded as such simply
because of Iraq’s recent political stress in relation to US national
security. The next in ranking would be someone who is from a region or a
country that is producing a stressing political tension with the United
States that seeds within a recent historical context. An example would
be someone from Iran (with the Iranian Revolution of 1979 constituting a
stressing recent political history and continues to escalate in its
tension, especially in relation to the issue of nuclear weapons). 

This is perhaps followed by someone who is from a region
that has produced a stressing political situation with the United States
in the distant (yet not too far) history. An example of this would be
someone who is from the former Soviet Union or a state within the Warsaw
Pact (since the former Soviet Union and its allies in the former Warsaw
Pact had created the Cold War and continue to play, although to a
lesser degree, some form of political adversaries to the United States),
followed perhaps with someone from Germany or Japan (with Germany and
Japan being the primary producers of political tensions that led to
WWII). Those may then be followed with others from a country or region
that pose economic or cultural conflict, such as Mexico, and so forth.

The ranking in hate, of course, has no rationalization or
systemic functional operation. It is produced uncoordinated and
spontaneously by individuals who use institutional setting and
organizational behavior to give voice to their paranoia. Due to the
unique nature of globalization, this form is particularly pronounced in
higher educational settings in the United States. Higher educational
settings in the United States, unfortunately, are witnessing such a
phobia because it is can easily be disguised and escape consequences due
to the very nature of these settings. 

Xenophobia, of course, has no rewarding elements to its
perpetrators. The only reward is psychological. Because of this,
xenophobia is a state of mind and a form of illness that differs from
classic racism.  

As a nation, we are in the process of destroying racism in
our society. Yes, there still exist various practices of individual,
societal, and institutional racism. However, we are on an irreversible
path of ending this ugly phenomenon and forging toward emphasizing the
integrated aspects of our cooperative mosaic. Xenophobia will also be
eliminated and dealt a blow to as well. However, and in order to do so,
we need to be aware of its hidden venues and better educate ourselves on
how to identify, isolate, target, and then eliminate it. Whether the
xenophobes like it or not, we are part of the world and globalization is
here to stay. The old thinking of protectionism, isolationism, and
burying ourselves behind walls of ignorance are things of the past and
will never separate or divide us again. 

I am hopeful that by exposing xenophobia and encouraging
ourselves to stand up against it, this ugly phenomenon may also can be
uncovered and rooted out off of our society. And, for everyone who is
interested in the sharing of the American dream through hard work and
dedication, they may do so without being subjected to hate or
discrimination based on their country of origin. As racism before it,
and as many other phobias alike it (sexism, misogynism, homophobia,
Islamophobia and others), the more we hide this ugly phenomenon and
sweep it under the rug, the longer it may live and creep into our lives
to disable our cooperative human community from functioning with
creativity and positive energy. 

ASPA member Alexander Dawoody is assistant professor of public administration at Marywood University.  Email: [email protected].

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One Response to Xenophobia, the Other Face of Racism

  1. Agustin Reply

    February 25, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    I don’t know about that one.

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