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Let’s talk about xenophobia

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What do you know about Xenophobia? Are you among the trend that just move with the crowd because that’s what everyone is talking about?

Let’s talk about Xenophobia and learn a little about it, shall we?

Xenophobia, or fear of strangers, is a broad term that may be applied to any fear of someone who is different from you. For someone who suffers from legitimate xenophobia, hatred is generally a reaction to the fear.

Xenophobia and Hate

Throughout history, those who have banded together in families, tribes or clans have thrived, while individuals who were separated by choice or circumstances faced increased dangers and limited opportunities.

While strong identification with a particular group can be healthy, it can also lead to suspicion of those who do not belong. It is natural and possibly instinctive to want to protect the interests of the group by eliminating threats to those interests. Unfortunately, this natural protectiveness often causes members of a group to shun or even attack those who are perceived as different, even if they actually pose no legitimate threat at all.

The twisting of a positive trait — group harmony and protection from threats – into a negative – imagining threats where none exist — has led to any number of hate crimes, persecutions, wars, and general mistrust.

Symptoms of Xenophobia

Certainly, not everyone who suffers from xenophobia starts wars or performs hate crimes. Most sufferers are able to contain their reactions and live within societal norms.

If you suffer from xenophobia, you may feel uncomfortable around people who fall into a different group than your own. You might go out of your way to avoid particular neighborhoods. You may discount the possibility of friendship with certain people solely due to their skin color, mode of dress or other external factors. You might have trouble taking a supervisor seriously or connecting with a teammate who does not fall into your particular racial, cultural or religious group.

South Africa and Xenophobia

South Africa has a history of xenophobic attacks by black people who accuse citizens of other African countries, as well as Asian countries, of coming to steal their jobs.

The wave of xenophobic attacks that swept South Africa in 2008 claimed at least 62 lives. Subsequent incidents, particularly in 2015, have displaced thousands of African migrants and led to the large-scale looting of their shops and other businesses.

South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world. More than half of the population lives in poverty. The inequality and hardships experienced by the majority of South Africans are rooted in the country’s colonial and apartheid racist legacy, as well as the post-1994 failures to transform the economy and society. Yet, listening to many politicians one gets the impression it’s all the immigrants’ fault.

In a society where violence against foreign nationals is pervasive and xenophobic sentiments are common, irresponsible leaders continue to manufacture an atmosphere of crisis

In 2017, South Africa’s deputy police minister claimed that the city of Johannesburg was taken over by foreigners, with 80% of the city controlled by them. If this is not urgently stopped,  he added, the entire country “could be 80% dominated by foreign nationals and the future president of South Africa could be a foreign national.” The mayor of Johannesburg often speaks about “our people” and “those people” (the foreigners) who make South Africa into a “lawless society.” The Economic Freedom Fighters has questioned whether those born outside the country—even the people born abroad to South African parents—can ever be trusted or regarded as “proper South Africans.”

Politicians claim that foreigners are the main reason for high crime rates; immigrants are blamed for the hardships experienced by poor South Africans and for overrunning South Africa’s cities. “The recent xenophobic attacks on non-South Africans can be directly linked to calls by politicians to ‘defend the sovereignty of the state’ and confirms a dangerous emerging trend of xenophobic populism which leads to attacks on foreign nationals. The xenophobic intent was, and still is, very clear. It wanted to do what the state had failed to do: remove foreigners from the city,” the statement read.

“Senior political leaders find an easy target in the vulnerable Africans seeking to make a new home in South Africa. Indeed, there is a dangerous emerging trend of xenophobic populism that leads to attacks on foreign nationals.”

When xenophobic violence explodes and immigrants are beaten, displaced, tortured, killed and/or burned alive, while their property and possessions are looted—as has happened many times in the past. It is important to remember that the large majority of those who reject or dislike foreigners in South Africa are anti-black immigrant and Afrophobic. White foreigners and immigrants don’t experience xenophobia in South Africa. It is reserved mainly for poor black foreigners from the African continent.

Animosity between Africa’s two superpowers – Nigeria and South Africa – has heightened in recent weeks,

We hear that South Africans detest Nigerians because they believe we are criminals, are too loud, and our men steal their women.

“They are arrogant and they don’t know how to talk to people, especially Nigerians,” South African protesters wrote in a petition to their ministry of home affairs during an anti-immigration march in the capital, Pretoria, in 2017.

Nigerians, on the other hand, believe that South Africans are simply jealous of their self-confidence, ability to thrive and outshine.

Combating Xenophobia

Unlike many phobias, xenophobia is often deeply rooted in a combination of upbringing, religious teachings, political moves and previous experiences. Successfully combating xenophobia generally means confronting numerous aspects of the personality, society and learning new ways of experiencing the world. To effectively combat xenophobia, the government and police need to publicly acknowledge attacks on foreign nationals and their property as xenophobic and take decisive action. This should include ensuring proper police investigations of xenophobic crimes and holding those responsible to account.

Reducing discriminatory practices by publicly promoting positive and attitudes and a greater understanding, promoting peace and harmony between foreign nationals and local. Promote human dignity through the promotion and protection of human rights, raise awareness of anti-racism, equality and anti-discrimination issues among public officials, civil society and the general public, mobilizing support from a wide range of people. Dedicate more oversight, training, human and financial resources to anti xenophobia programming.

Violence and retaliation is never the way, it would still lead to more death and loss of properties

Forcing these businesses to leave, or crippling their operations, would only worsen Nigeria’s already grim unemployment statistics and the loss of the valuable services they provide would leave a vacuum.

But it is unclear whether the South African government is committed to protecting Nigerians or other migrants.

Let’s watch and see.

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