Xenophobia is the fear and stigmatization of foreigners. People who look different or have different customs can appear threatening to those who are used to only one particular ethnic group, lifestyle or set of behaviors. This article can help you to aid others overcome xenophobia.
Here are a few steps you can try.
If you live in a big city like New York or San Francisco, visit foreign enclaves like Chinatown or Little Italy. Talk to the people in these neighborhoods and patronize their businesses.
Live your ideals.
Be an example to others of how to forge a more united, accepting world. Build coalitions with marginalized groups on social and political issues. Alternately, join a sports team, club, or hobby group that has an ethnically diverse membership. Foreign language study groups are a good choice, as are cooking classes which promote global cuisine. Standing in visible solidarity with the “other” in daily life is a simple but important way to defeat xenophobia.
Confront xenophobes in your own life.
You may have a relative or friend who has nationalist or racist ideals. Spend time talking to them about their point of view. When in conversation with a racist, nationalist, or xenophobe, avoid attacking them directly.
Instead, emphasize that it is their ideas which are misguided, and remind them that they are a good person who can and should let go of their intolerance.
Use calm, reasoned arguments to illustrate that they don’t need to fear a group just because they are different.
Surprise them with new information that could change their perspective.
For instance, if a Catholic is afraid of Muslims, you might mention that Muslims really revere Mary, or that they recognize Jesus as a great teacher.
Ask why a group is perceived as a threat.
Xenophobia is often no more than a feeling of suspicion or mistrust of the “other.” Pressing people as to exactly why they consider differences in culture, religion, or dress threatening is the first step toward making them question their own bigoted beliefs.
Is it skin color? Accent? Religious practice? Stereotypes about behaviors? These are among the most common causes of xenophobia.
Demonstrate how xenophobia is problematic.
Xenophobia results in discrimination, racism, and nationalism, which in turn inspire violence, hostility, and exploitation.
Many of the world’s worst atrocities from the Holocaust to the Rwandan Genocide have been inspired by xenophobic sentiments. Educating people about these historical facts will help prevent future outbursts of xenophobia.
Make fun of xenophobia.
Comedy can reveal the absurdity underlying xenophobic rhetoric. Use jokes and satire to illustrate how silly it is to disrespect and deny aid to others just because they are different.
For instance, a popular parody group in Hungary criticized their government’s proposal to build a long wall along the border to keep immigrants out by expressing excitement for the return of the Iron Curtain.