As long as people have walked the earth, there have been differences that separate them. From skin color and language, to the ideals and traditions that they hold to be true. There are many results of these differences, both good and bad. When people do not react well to others who are different, it can cause xenophobia or racism. Though these two terms are used separately, their meanings are actually quite different.
Xenophobia can pertain to many things, with the basic meaning being a fear or dislike of something that is different or unknown to a person. This is sometimes confused for racism because of the dislike that can be felt toward beliefs and cultures that make a person uncomfortable or afraid. Xenophobia could even be considered a mental illness, as the people who are usually xenophobic believe there is something wrong with the belief system that they do not understand. However, this happens even when the beliefs are generally accepted by society and it is actually the person who struggles with being a xenophobe that holds the unaccepting beliefs.
Racism, by contrast, is a dislike that is based on a person’s race, rather than their beliefs or cultures. Racism thrives on the idea of superiority. Racists believe that their own group is better than others, whether it be because of their status in the world or what they perceive the status of others to be. Racism does not take a person’s beliefs into account. This is an idea as old as time—if you read through the Bible, one instance is the Egyptian slaves that Moses freed, who lived under the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh believed that his own people were superior to the Egyptians, and as a result, they were enslaved and forced to work in grueling conditions.
The major difference, therefore, is that racists dislike people because of their racial background, while xenophobes may dislike a group for numerous reasons. They are afraid or uncomfortable, and this results in their belief system. Racism is also looked down upon more than xenophobia. Xenophobia may even be seen as rational in some cases. For example, following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, many people became cautious of foreigners, resulting in xenophobia.
While it is true that xenophobia and racism are not the same thing, they are still both ideas that represent a problem in many countries. The major similarity is that they both show a lack of respect and understanding of others, whether it is because of their culture and belief system, or because of their racial identity. This is a problem that can be seen in derogatory remarks toward certain groups, and even war in some areas. To stop these problems, a more tolerant, loving society must be promoted. Think about this carefully as you raise your kids and speak to those around you. You have the power to shape thoughts and ideas—be sure you are doing it in an understanding, respectful way.