Xenophobia as a Ferment of Racism

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Xenophobia is nowadays a concept for discussion in human rights framework, because it is often coupled with racism and it is difficult to find the edge which separates these two terms. If to concentrate on the psychological factors which lead people to fear of what is perceived to be foreign and try to show how it affected the history of individuals and collectives, it is necessary to interpret xenophobia as the typical reaction, then referring it to racism.  Foreigners have been the object of fear since time immemorial.  The fear from foreigners is also based on history according to which foreigners came from unknown places importing with them unknown languages and cultures no matter if their goals were aggressive or not. Here the fair is so much not in foreigners as in the incapability to know what would be the consequence of misunderstanding each other during the communication. The individual or group unconsciously has its role.  Even in the historical aspect of xenophobia, psychology refers that it can be rooted in personal history of the individual. The fear of something new and foreign emerges for the child since the moment of born of the elder sibling. So children look at new siblings as to the one who comes to take away what belongs to them. This even happens with the children live without siblings. Then they start fighting with the imaginary monsters.  Due to education this sibling hatred transforms into love, however those who are not capable to pass through this shift stay under xenophobia.  Psychology specifies xenophobia to the identity construction process understanding according to which ego needs the foreigner in order to identify it. The reaction of ego to loose itself in the other is the factor that results xenophobia.  All of us practiced it when we woke up at night thinking that we are in unknown place. Then we start to find and identify the familiar objects in the dark until we find a point to lean on for identifying our surroundings. The far comes from feeling far from us. This feeling the feeling that ticklish human nerves system.    It is very hard to cope with this feeling.  
In this regard, xenophobia in any level is considered as a defensive reaction of nerves system which can acquire two forms:
a) it becomes a root for different types of nationalism;
b) it makes an individual or a group superior their way of life and culture in relation with others and imposes it to them.  The term racism comes from the Latin word “ratio”, which means “nature” or “quality”. Racism is perceived to apply to non-white groups only, while it applies not only to the color of people but also to the fact that they belong to certain ethic group, which is perceived to inferior the other ethnic groups in the race relations.  If to look at the development of the history of racism, we obviously see that before it was reflected on the xenophobic perceptions about people basing on their pigmentation. Now in Europe racism refers not only to biology of people but also to the culture, national origin, language, religion, dress and dietary costumes. Robert Miles refers that the ideologies of race historically included culture and biological detentions, which include all categories mentioned above. Ali Rattansi thinks that the populations targeted by `cultural racism’ are usually those which were previously the objects of more biologically based discrimination.  Racism as process has several elements. The first is the determinist nature of views and perceptions about races. This takes us to the idea that certain groups can be classified or identifies as races which have inherent and unchangeable characteristics, and that these characteristics account for their capacities and behavior. The second stage is the insistence that there is a racial hierarchy in which different races stand in relation to each other as superior and inferior, where the white races are invariably placed at the summit. What connects these two stages is the assumption that racial traits determine cultural traits and that a more advanced culture is a sure sign of racial superiority. This analysis raises the question of whether, as some have argued, the term `racism’ should be used only with reference to the development of the concept of race in western culture. The question that arises is that whether it is adequate to count on these beliefs to found racism.
Though the enormous work of human rights framework addressed to non-discrimination concept, which refers to legal interpretation and legal qualification of discrimination and racism and which is being regulated by dispositions and sanctions that legal system provides for discriminative actions, there is a huge difference between the desirable and real outcome.  Conversely, racism needs discriminative motivation, which is the criteria that can even unintentionally refer to indirect discrimination. The term “indirect discrimination” refers to rules, regulations, procedures and criteria that have a discriminatory effect, irrespective of the motivations or intentions of the decision makers or gatekeepers involved. To understand racial discrimination, it is important to know and understand the difference between stereotyping, racism and discrimination. Stereotyping refers to having wrong, insulting a generalizing approaches about the characteristics and specificities of people based on their membership of certain racial or ethnic group. Racism establishes and confirms superiority or inferiority of groups and of individuals basing on their membership to a group, meanwhile assessing the physical or intellectual characteristics of ethnic groups. And racial discrimination refers to treating someone less favorable reasoning their skin color, national or ethnic origin.
Hripsime Asatryan
“The Impact of Cultural Context on Discriminative Phenomenon; Cultural Determinants of Nationalism and Patriotism; Racism and Xenophobia” , 2016
  • *References
    Guido Bolaffi, Raffaele Bracalenti, Peter Braham and Sandro Gindro, (2003), Dictionary for Race, Ethnicity and Culture, (DREC), SAGE Publications London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, p. 275.
    Miles, Robert, 1993 Racism after `Race Relations’, Routledge, London.
    Rattansi, Ali, 1994, Western racisms, ethnicities and identities in a “post- modern” frame’, in Rattansi, A., Westwood, S. (eds), Racism, Modernity and Identity, Polity Press, Cambridge, pp. 54-56.

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