Racism and xenophobia

The racism is the belief that people belonging to a certain race, based on their physical traits s, and whose attributes and qualities make this race is inferior or superior to another.

Xenophobia refers to the fear and rejection of a person or population that is considered foreign .

Both racism and xenophobia are forms of discrimination and are based on prejudice. They promote behaviors that segregate individuals and human groups, without having a rational basis, and cause harm to those who suffer them.

DefinitionRacism is the belief that an individual or group belongs to a race and that that race possesses attributes or qualities that make it inferior to another race.Xenophobia is the fear or rejection of the foreigner, particularly individuals or human groups from a different community, region or country.
  • Race is used to divide different human groups.
  • It implies the idea of ​​superiority and inferiority according to different physical attributes.
  • Use racial and / or ethnic stereotypes to define people.
  • It promotes racial segregation.
  • It is a type of discrimination and prejudice.
  • It can be an individual or institutionalized practice.
  • It involves fear and rejection of other people.
  • It intensifies when there is a large immigrant population.
  • In many cases, foreigners are described in a derogatory way.
  • Foreigners are seen as a threat to the cultural identity of natives or nationals.
  • It is a form of discrimination and prejudice.
  • It is both individual and institutionalized behavior.
What is it based on?Supposed qualities of a person or group according to their phenotypic traits.The geographic, regional, or national origin of an individual or group.
ExamplesRacial segregation, physical and verbal violence, inequity in access to educational services and employment for people of a racial group.Anti-immigration policies, use of the media to exalt the crimes of foreigners, denial of access to basic health services to immigrants, segregation and establishment of ghettos made up of foreigners.

What is racism?

Racism refers to the unfounded belief that there are racial groups and that the racial group to which one belongs has certain characteristics and qualities that make it superior to other racial groups. This is based on phenotypic traits, such as skin color and physical appearance.

Racism is a form of discrimination and it is exhibited in actions and practices, as well as it is manifested in social and political beliefs against individuals and groups for being considered part of a different race.

Furthermore, racism is motivated by a sustained prejudice against another group, not only because of their phenotypic traits, but also because of their culture and traditions, as well as their ethnic origin.

Characteristics of racism

  • It can be an individual or institutionalized practice.
  • Race is used as a starting category to divide different groups.
  • It is based on the idea that one human group is superior to another.
  • It uses racial and / or ethnic stereotypes to define variables such as a person’s social status, job, or educational level.
  • It promotes racial segregation.
  • It is a type of discrimination and prejudice.
  • It can be a conscious or unconscious practice.
  • Those who are racists often do not recognize the prejudice on which racist acts are based.

Race and racism

The concept of race indicates a category used to organize or divide human populations, according to physical and biological traits. However, the idea that human groups are divided into races comes more from a social construction than from a valid scientific category.

The use of the term race has been quite controversial throughout history. In the Middle Ages it was used to refer to people who shared a common descent. Later, from the 18th century, the race would include the grouping and division of people according to their phenotypic characteristics.

In both the social and natural sciences, this concept has no definitive scientific value. This is due to the fact that the separation between different groups, according to physical and biological attributes, does not present marked limits and is usually carried out arbitrarily.

Throughout history, the social division caused by racism has been marked by a dynamic of power between different groups. Thus, a dominant group uses the idea of ​​race to categorize the social and cultural value of another group, generally as being inferior to its own.

In this way, the concept of race has been allied with racist positions to classify human groups and base practices such as slavery, racial segregation and even ethnic discrimination.

Learn more about the Difference between race and ethnicity .

Main types of racism

There are different expressions that racism can take. Some of the most common are:

  • Individual racism: this type of racism is characterized by being the one that a person manifests according to their opinions or point of view. It is directed against other people, with the aim of hurting them.
  • Systemic racism: refers to acts of racial discrimination no longer on the part of individuals, but on the part of institutions that have an important social weight. This racism is organized and imposed by governments, companies, religious institutions and educational institutions, among others.
  • Cultural racism: this occurs when a dominant racial group determines that certain cultural practices and values ​​are the norm or standard of “high culture” or “true art.” Thus, the culture of other human groups is ignored, made invisible or perceived as inferior.
  • Racism in the field of civil rights: it occurs mainly as a legacy of a colonial or slave-owning past, a historical disparity, at an economic and social level, the result of racist practices. The consequences of these situations are observable up to the present, translating into racist acts directed at people from historically disadvantaged groups.
  • Racism expressed as racial segregation: this form of racism manifests itself in the geographical and socioeconomic separation of a group due to its racial or ethnic origin. The group that has been isolated ends up suffering serious social damage that affects and reduces the chances of its members to get out of this situation.

Learn more about the Difference between prejudice, racism and discrimination .

What is xenophobia?

Xenophobia is an attitude that involves fear and rejection of the foreigner. In many cases, this rejection is directed at people who are considered as foreigners or who in fact have a different ethnic, geographical and / or national origin.

The word xenophobia comes from the Greek and is composed of the word xeno- which means ‘strange’ or ‘foreigner’ and the word -phobia , which means ‘fear’, ‘panic’ or ‘terror’. Therefore, its etymological meaning is that of ‘fear of the strange or foreign’.

In principle, xenophobia does not imply that there is always some intention to discriminate against another person or group for being originally from a different locality. Despite this, xenophobic behaviors are a form of discrimination.

In any case, the word “xenophobia” is generally used to refer to hostile practices and attitudes directed at foreigners.

For example, it is possible that xenophobic positions are inscribed within political speeches. On some occasions, political representatives and parties use foreigners and immigrants as an excuse to awaken a nationalist sentiment, holding them responsible for the internal problems of a given country.

Characteristics of xenophobia

  • It is based on a rejection or fear of foreigners, as well as people not belonging to a community.
  • It intensifies when targeting immigrant groups.
  • Foreigners are seen as dangerous to the culture and identity of the natives, as invaders, unadaptable or criminals.
  • It is a form of discrimination and prejudice.
  • It can be accompanied by racism.

Relationship between xenophobia and racism

Among the main causes of xenophobia are ethnic discrimination and racism. However, not every form of racism or ethnic discrimination is a form of xenophobia.

Racism takes as its starting point the visible physical differences (phenotypic) that exist between individuals, being that someone can be racist even with nationals of the same country.

In the case of xenophobia, hostility or discrimination can occur with anyone, due to the fact that they are not native to a community, regardless of their physical attributes or appearance.

Even so, both behaviors are discriminating and can occur in parallel. The confusion between these occurs because, in some cases, people who come from other regions have different physical attributes from those of the natives of a region (for example, different skin color).

Thus, these attributes confirm to the natives that these other people are not local. This often makes it difficult to separate the two forms of discrimination.

Migration and xenophobia

When there are human migratory movements between different regions, the speeches against the reception of foreigners can be fed by xenophobic positions.

When it comes to foreign groups that migrate from one locality to another, xenophobia is not always explained by the number of people arriving in a region.

Among the main prejudices promoted by xenophobia are considering foreigners as a danger to the unity of the host group. For example, the increase in the number of immigrants in a society can lead to it losing its traditional values.

See also: Causes and consequences of migration

It is common for foreigners to be classified as invaders, criminals, enemies, or (socially) unadaptable. In addition, they are accused of appropriating the jobs of the natives, for being, many times, a cheaper labor force.

There can also be xenophobia when there is a fight between different groups for limited resources. For example, immigrants are often seen as competitors in terms of health and social services, for which they are criticized for having access to these.

Various international organizations and institutions, such as the United Nations (UN) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), work to integrate immigrants, and for their rights and contributions to be recognized in host societies.

One of the ways used by the IOM to combat xenophobia is to promote the social integration of migrant workers in the countries of destination (to which they emigrate).

Ways in which xenophobia presents itself

Xenophobia is expressed in many ways and in various circumstances. People who come from a different region, or have a different origin than the native population of a country or community, are profiled and discriminated against at various levels.

Sometimes the way xenophobia is expressed is explicit, while at other times it is more subtle. Here are some forms that xenophobia can take:

  • Use of negative stereotypes when referring to foreigners: such as saying that immigrants from a certain region are “lazy” or “criminals”.
  • Segregation and social exclusion: displacement of a foreign population and establishment of ghettos.
  • Police and legal harassment: selective use of law enforcement or punishing foreigners more severely for certain crimes.
  • Dissemination of a bad image in the media: newscasts emphasizing the criminality of certain populations of foreigners.
  • Destruction of foreign cultural identity and forced assimilation: demand that immigrants or foreigners act according to the cultural patterns of the host population and reject their own.
  • Rejection and repulsion: expulsion of foreigners, as refugees, for no apparent reason.

See also:

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