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An Overview of Xenophobia

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Xenophobia and racism go hand in hand. Many of the communities of color that face racial discrimination in the United States also experience xenophobia because they’re immigrants or belong to an ethnic group that’s widely perceived as “foreign.” Certain ethnic groups with roots outside of the United States have been stereotyped as “illegal aliens,” terrorists, anti-American or as generally inferior. Collectively, xenophobia and stereotypes have led to hate crimes and bias as well as institutionalized oppression against minority groups in the U.S.

The No-No Boys: Victims of Xenophobia

University of Washington Press
When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the federal government responded by rounding Japanese Americans up and forcing them into internment camps. At the time, it was thought that the U.S. government made this move to prevent any Japanese Americans who remained loyal to the Japanese Empire from plotting further attacks against the United States. In the 21st century, however, historians largely agree that xenophobia and racism were responsible for this decision. That’s not only because immigrants from other Western countries that were foes of the U.S. in World War II weren’t interned on a mass scale but also because the federal government never found evidence that Japanese Americans engaged in espionage during this time. Some young Japanese-American men protested the way that the U.S. government had infringed upon their civil rights. As a result, they refused to join the military to prove their loyalty to the country and declined to forswear allegiance to Japan. Given this, they received the name the “No-No Boys” and were ostracized in their community.

Hate Crimes Overview

Blake Emrys/Flickr.com
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001 robbed thousands of Americans of their lives, Muslim Americans have faced intense prejudice. Some members of the public link Muslims to the terrorist attacks because a group of Islamic fundamentalists carried them out. These people overlook the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are law-abiding citizens who felt as much pain as any other American after 9/11. Due to this glaring oversight, xenophobic Americans have burned Korans, vandalized mosques and attacked and killed Muslim strangers on the street. When a white supremacist opened fire on the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in August 2012, it was widely believed that the man did so because he associated the turbans Sikhs wear with Islam. Following 9/11, Sikhs, Muslims and people who appear to be Middle Eastern or South Asian have endured an unprecedented amount of bias crimes largely fueled by xenophobia.

Latinos Face Rising Police Brutality

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In the 21st century, Latinos have not only increasingly been the victims of hate crimes, they’ve also been the targets of police brutality and racial profiling. Why is this? Although many Latinos have lived in the U.S. for generations, they are widely viewed as immigrants, particularly “illegal immigrants.” Undocumented immigrants have become scapegoats of sorts, blamed for everything from taking jobs away from Americans to rising crime and the spread of communicable diseases. Given the perception that Hispanics are undocumented immigrants, the authorities in places such as Maricopa County, Ariz., have reportedly unlawfully stopped, detained and searched Latinos. While politicians on both sides of the aisle argue that immigration reform is needed, depriving Latinos of their civil liberties for fear that they’re undocumented immigrants is an irresponsible approach to the issue.

Political Smear Campaigns

Photo by Fibonacci Blue/Flickr.com
The racist smear campaigns of the 21st century have often intersected with xenophobic viewpoints. Birthers have constantly accused President Barack Obama of being born outside of the United States, even though his birth certificate and birth announcement place him in Hawaii at the time of his birth. White presidents, in contrast, have escaped such scrutiny about their place of birth. The fact that Obama’s father was a Kenyan sets him apart. Some white Republican politicians have also experienced xenophobia. During the 2000 presidential election a rumor circulated that John McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter Bridget wasn’t actually adopted but the product of an extramarital affair McCain had with a black woman. During the 2012 Republican primaries, supporters of Texas Rep. Ron Paul launched a video accusing former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman of being un-American because he’s twice served as U.S. ambassador to Asian countries and has two adopted Asian daughters.
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