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Xenophobia (Greek: "ksénos", meaning alien and "phóbos" - fear) means extreme aversion towards people who are strangers to a given individual, who differ from him, for example, by nationality, religion, were brought up in a different culture or otherwise they dress, come from a different environment or speak a different language. Read about xenophobia, find out what its causes and symptoms are!

Xenophobia - what is this phenomenon?

Xenophobia- although this term includes the term "phobia" and literally means "fear of others", people who are xenophobic actually feel more towards being different than the fear of being different. resentment of this otherness. The "others" are most often foreigners staying in a given country, but a xenophobe may also target religious and sexual minorities, representatives of a specific subculture.

Causes of xenophobia

1. Ignorance

Xenophobe is reluctant to differ from him primarily because he does not know them. It is accompanied by distrust, built on stereotypes and prejudices - if you do not have any knowledge about a given topic and do not want to deepen it, get to know the "other", it is easier to use well-known and often untrue patterns. Meanwhile, the most effective way to get rid of hostility is to get to know.

This is evidenced by a well-known experiment carried out many years ago - in 1934 - in the United States by Richard LaPiere, professor of sociology at Stanford University1 . Lapiere's student and his wife - both of Chinese descent - traveled through the US for two years and stayed in different hotels - only one (and 66 visited) were refused accommodation.

In addition, the couple were served in 184 restaurants. Half a year later, the professor and his student sent a questionnaire to more than 200 hotel owners asking if they would accept Chinese tourists under the roofs of their sites - as many as 90% of the answer was "no".

The experiment thus confirmed that xenophobia in "clash" with a specific human being definitely loses its strength, that thanks to getting to know strangers we "tame" strangers, we stop believing stereotypes, because we can refute them "on the spot".

Opposite ofof xenophobia is xenolatry - a love of otherness.

2. Political and cultural context

Not without significance for our approach to otherness is the fact of being brought up in a specific culture - people from Christian countries most often approach people from Muslim countries with anxiety and vice versa.

On the other hand, in secular countries, one can often observe greater aversion towards Catholics than Muslims, despite the fact that in recent years these countries have been attacked many times by people describing themselves as representatives of Islam (another issue is how many together).

Politics is also very important - people "in the spotlight" strongly influence the perception of specific issues by the society. There are lively discussions about refugees in Poland - back in 2015, when asked if Poland should accept people from countries affected by conflicts, 54% of people answered yes.

A year later it was only 40% - the change in the attitude of society was largely influenced by the worst image of refugees propagated by some politicians and some groups2 .

3. Fear

Another theme of xenophobia is fear of strangers. Xenophobia is accompanied not only by the fear that people from other countries may take, for example, Poles from jobs in their own country, but also to try to impose their culture - this is especially visible in relation to Muslims and the role of women in Islam. In extreme cases, xenophobe is afraid that a given nation (a popular stereotype in this case is that of Jews) will decide to take control of a given country and assume the most important positions in it.

Manifestations of xenophobia

Xenophobe can manifest his attitude towards being different in different ways. The so-called a pyramid of hate, developed in the 1950s by Gordon Allport - a psychologist working at Harvard University. The pyramid shows the scale of prejudices - from the least serious symptoms to the most dangerous ones - and can also be used in the case of xenophobia.

1. Negative comments

Xenophobia begins with negative comments, which is especially common nowadays - when a wave of hate is flowing over the Internet on various groups and people. Although negative comments are not a form of physical violence and may appear less harmful than it, they effectively fuel hatred and may lead to further xenophobic activity.

2. Avoidance

Xenophobe usually does not know and does not need to meet the representative"foreign" nation, a representative of the LGBT community or someone who speaks a different language. He prefers to meet with friends, people with whom he feels connected, with whom he has something in common (e.g. skin color or a common language). Xenophobes are not driven by the desire to learn about other cultures, different points of view and avoid similar situations whenever possible.

Xenophobia may be an attempt to disguise one's own complexes.

3. Discrimination

Xenophobia manifests itself as discrimination when, as in the example with Chinese tourists, we treat it worse because of the "otherness" of a given person than people similar to ourselves. Examples of situations are: reluctance to hire a homosexual person with a foreign-sounding name or a decision not to rent a flat to e.g. Ukrainians or Russians.

4. Physical attacks

Xenophobia can start with negative comments on Facebook and end up with the resulting physical attacks. A physical attack can also be caused by a specific event. Usually, the victim of such attacks is a representative of a specific group that, according to the xenophob, has guilty of something.

For example after the terrorist attacks in Brussels, a random Arab who has nothing to do with them and living in Poland, or, what is even more incomprehensible, an Indian or a black person, is attacked.

5. Extermination

The highest stage of hatred that has happened more than once in human history: during the Holocaust during World War II or the Armenian slaughter in Turkey.

Xenophobia in Poland

Poland has the opinion of a xenophobic country, which some data confirm, others refute. The fact is that by September 2022, Poland had not accepted a single refugee, and in the Amnesty International's "Refugees Welcome Index" survey, it was ranked 24th out of 27 in terms of negative attitudes towards refugees.

Behind Poland there were only three countries: Thailand, Indonesia and Russia, and they overtook us, among others. Jordan and Lebanon as well as Germany and Greece - countries that have either taken in a lot of refugees or faced a huge influx of refugees.

There are also many attacks caused by xenophobia in Poland. It was loud about the victim of a German-speaking professor in a tram, and Turkish and Bulgarian students were beaten up in Bydgoszcz and Toruń. A Muslim woman was attacked in Łódź, a Syrian in Warsaw, and a Portuguese in Rzeszów. The list of similar events is long.

On the other hand, Poland is the second, after Great Britain, EU country that issues the most residence permits to people coming from outside the EU - among themUkrainians dominated in 2015. It is worth noting, however, that this may result from a more positive attitude towards eastern neighbors as those who culturally have more in common with Poland than people from Muslim countries.

In Poland, xenophobia may be punished under the provisions of the Penal Code. M. in. on the basis of art. 119 par. 1 concerning discrimination, as well as Art. 257 on racism or Art. 256 (par. 1, par. 2, par. 3, par. 4), which talk about promoting fascism or another totalitarian system.

Worth knowing

Xenophobia and racism

Xenophobia and racism are terms that are often used interchangeably - the phenomena are very similar, but focus on a different aspect of attitudes towards "others". Racism, which concerns not only skin color, but also origin, presupposes the superiority of one group or race over another, and xenophobia focuses primarily on aversion to strangers.

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