‘We are all created in the image of God’.
This statement was so painful to hear when I was a student in a formerly white South African university. This is why:
My estimate is that when I enrolled at the institution, the student roll was half White and half African (majority from Lesotho). I, and my African colleagues, were constantly refused entry into a residence that we were paying for, as some of these residences were reserved for whites (not in policy but in action) and we were refused passage through certain areas of a campus. We were called a ‘Kaffir’ (equivalent to the American Version Negro), insulted, harassed with water spread across your room and other rude acts that were based on some pseudo-culture that were in use. These were, characteristically, done by groups of white rascals who – like all mischief-mongers – waited for opportunities where they found you alone or gathered in a considerably smaller number than theirs.
Juxtaposing the image philosophy with the reception that we were getting, it made me wonder if God, indeed, looked like them.
My stay at the university gave me enough context to understand the imbalance that these scoundrels were going through, and the responsibility that I ( together with them) had to adjust our conduct in order to realise this statement, and make it more visible and believable.
A ticking time bomb
The question I had then still persists today – Have we sufficiently safeguarded the sacrosanct principles of valuing all humanity? Have we played a leadership role in the world of living organisms?
I would like to propose that most people are not doing too well in maintaining this sacrosanct principle, even though they tend to claim that they do – for political correctness. In fact, humanity has entered a phase where it is becoming a ticking time bomb waiting to exterminate itself.
There are persons who were racially discriminated against in the past, but find themselves today ironically devaluing other human beings merely because they are from a different church, region or tribe. This is because most human beings lead themselves and those that are receptive to their influence astray as they, by action and in words, preach attitudes that are unquestionably xenophobic.
It is incontestable that the ability to provide leadership to oneself makes one a better person, whilst an inability to provide the same to oneself makes you and the whole humanity to reside in a bedlam that your malfunction has founded.
When I first got introduced to the word ‘Xenophobia’ I was a little confused – being part of a country and continent that is recovering from a colonial era that affected my childhood and approach to surviving the racists menu dished out to us at schools, universities, marketplaces, sportsgrounds, social life generally and other defining arenas of life – I knew and still know that racism, as well as the repulsion I still hold against it.
‘A stranger in my utopia’
Xenophobia is derived from the Greek Lexicon with Xenos meaning ‘Stranger’ and Phobias meaning ‘fear’. It is a fear of strangers or those who are different from us. It classifies the so-called stranger as an outgroup.
If you are a member of the outgroup, the Xenophobes will hear nothing of what you say but will be preoccupied by the feature that makes you a member of the outgroup. A sense of superiority, as a xenophobic tendency, is best represented by the Greeks (in history) who believed other groups were of inferior character and therefore barbarians. The so-called barbarians were seen as best suited for slavery. They murdered thousands of those seen to be such. Romans are also known to have been xenophobic. Marcus Brutus, in 42 BC, is said to have come across an Ethiopian person at his gates and immediately gave instruction for his soldiers to chop the African into pieces as Black was seen as a colour of death.
Xenophobia is a lax thought process that is based on denigration, militant jealousy, and a tendency to prioritise differences even where they hardly exist. It is based on putting blame for your defectiveness on someone else who knows nought about your inadequacies. Xenophobes see their victims as a strange bunch belonging to a lower class and other far-fetched ideas like being disease carriers, criminals and sub-humans. It is an irrational hatred directed at some group/s of persons. Xenophobia is also an attitude of pessimists and cowards.
Such people are dangerous – not only to all society, but also to themselves. They are very deceitful because they do these, in most cases, escaping identification. They tend to evoke a sense of righteousness even though it is based on criminal and wicked persuasions. It is an international crime that has no space in the world of the living.
They always feel uncomfortable when they are around people from different groups. They always avoid having to interact with these groups or even have friendly relations with these ‘strange groups’ and when they account, they always give dishonest and superficial reasons like their dress code. Job prospects for very talented persons belonging to the outgroup, at times, get limited by the impact of Xenophobes.
Xenophobia exists in all corners of the globe. It is not born at conception but is an imbalance that is methodically instilled into innocent minds as they attempt to acclimatise with the world. It is a triplet (with certain features being identical) to its siblings Racism and Homophobia. Racism and Homophobia are based on specific characteristic differences, whilst Xenophobia is based on perceptual differences. Perceptual differences are as difficult to eradicate, just like an attempt to climb a figurative mountain that is the size of the Drakensberg, Kilimanjaro and Himalayas mountains put together. Scary.
Klan characters exist worldwide within all races
In South Africa, many episodes of tension and physical confrontation between those of South African citizenry and multitudes from various tribes across africa erupted.
This country receives the most immigrants in Africa and was evaluated by the Pew Research in 2018 to confirm the presence of Xenophobia in the country. According to this research, 62% of South Africans are xenophobic due to the view that they take social benefit and jobs to the disadvantage of the locals. 61% felt immigrants were responsible for crime.
It always boggles my mind when I contrast this with the South African history that has recorded some of the WORST and UNIMAGINABLE forms of human denigration ever comprehendible. Who would forget the experience of a South African that was taken from the region referred to as Eastern Cape in modern South Africa to be kept like an animal in Europe? Sarah Baartman (not sure if this is her real name) was human trafficked from her home territory to be placed on display in human Zoos in Britain and France. French scientists and anatomists studied her body and anatomy in an attempt to provide a scientifically based rationale for racism. One historian indicates that she refused to show her genitalia even though her slave owners tried to force her. Some of their evil findings were, consequently, that she looks like an Orang-Utan because she had small ears. President Nelson Mandela engaged the French government =, who had still kept her mortal remains, about this inhuman act by the English and French Xenophobes. It took eight years for the French to do the noble thing – releasing her body to the South African government in 2002.
About 2 million Nigerians reside in Ghana and have been subjected to various forms of xenophobic attacks. Half a million (500,000) Ghanaians reside in Nigeria and the same is true for them too. Some persons in various tribes within various countries have behaved wickedly, satisfying xenophobic tendencies against fellow citizens from other tribal groups, though accepting that they belong to the same nationality. They tend to place all misfortune that faces them at the feet of another tribal group or groups. At times, this is done at the direct or veiled encouragement from some of their leadership.
Cultural xenophobia is also prevalent within countries between citizens. One of the greatest champions in the African struggle against colonialism, Dr Kenneth ‘KK’ Kaunda (may his Soul Rest in Peace) found himself being a victim of political opponents in Zambia that preferred to dig into anything that was different about him from the majority of the citizenry. That his ancestry had a connection with Malawi became the lame excuse that many of his political opponents sloganeered around.
People of the same nationality discriminate against one another based on the regions from which they come. This exclusion may also be based on the differences in tribal origin. The Rwandan genocide, which was operated by and between the Hutus, Tutsis and Twa tribes is one of the most frightening and mindboggling outcomes of Xenophobia. A nation was almost wiped out with a million people murdered over a span of two months in 1994.
Dare I remind you of the prejudice that persons of Jewish origin went through and are still going through in Europe and across the world. This is humanity at its worst.
Xenophobes can be vicious – even to those that are similar to them as long as it satisfies their attempts to address their own insufficiencies. The Ku Klux Klan is a prime example of this ruckus. The KKK, as they are more commonly known, is a movement that preached white supremacy – targeting Africans, Jews and leftists in the United States (US). This also included the Africans’ lawyers even though some of them were white. Their only sin was that they were protecting Africans.
In this COVID-19 era, the world finds itself faced with a common problem but xenophobes have extended their sin using the current dilemma. COVID-19 is deadly, but not just because of the sickness it makes human beings vulnerable ; it is also a reflection of how retrogressive some within the homo sapiens are. The treatment meted out to persons of Asiatic origin is sinful. Remember the shameful utterances from Donald Trump when he spoke of a ‘Chinese virus’? Speaking in Malay is enough to have people pointing at you as a source of the deadly disease. Ironically, to further compound the matter, Africans resident in China’s Guangzhou city were forcibly tested last year, ordered to self-isolate in designated residences, and had some residing in the streets as they were evicted from their residences while being accused of bringing the coronavirus into China.
Xenophobia is possibly a psychological error
Some Psycho-Analysts argue that Xenophobia, in some instances, presents some features that can be linked to psychological errors. All xenophobic persons are not psychologically well. Some psychologists believe it is so. The only reason that it is not yet recognised as a mental health problem is that there is a view that if categorised as such, it may be the beginning of medicalising social problems – opening a gap for criminals to take advantage of that.
The list is endless
There are a lot of examples that continue to bedevil the world – fights against Christians, Islamophobia, holocausts in Japan and the Ukraine region of Europe, etc.
Xenophobes have their eyes blinded by an element of being uncomfortable, appalled, unaccepting and (un)proud of who they are. Another person’s success is seen as a symbol of failure for them and those that they believe are their kind. I repeat (deliberately) that at times, because of their failures to solve their regions’ or countries’ problem, they look for a group that they scapegoat for their own failures. They will, in some cases, blame the presence of foreigners for the presence of disease (for example) when they are actually the major carriers and transporters of it ]. Even if you remove all the foreigners, still their countries’ problems would remain intact.
Xenophobes are aware that what they are doing is wrong. You will hardly ever see them justifying their ill-deeds in public. In fact, respectful debate is their antithesis.
Where to from here?
As I said at the beginning, it is disheartening to experience discrimination from other human beings, albeit in my experience it was racism. However, to deal with these we need to start by educating ourselves on how important it is to realise that other human beings are also worthy.
You, the reader, are the only one who can kill xenophobia. If you take that responsibility, you would be playing a positive role in parenting your children away from negativity.
To avoid becoming a Xenophobe, start or continue travelling more so that your view of the world is not always based on what you hear but what you have experienced and how it is to be with other people.
As soon as a xenophobic thought visits your mind, don’t give it authority over you – dismiss it immediately.
If your husband or wife or lover or relative or friend is xenophobic, make it one of your resolutions to provide a guiding hand, even if it takes long (remember it is not easy to climb just a single mountain). Discourage those xenophobic jokes when having your dialogues. Your efforts might just save one life or hundreds more.
Interact more with other races (including those that are racist against your kind), tribes, clans, gender (including homosexuals), etc. Be open and, friends, the fear of the unknown is one of the worst forms of self-defeat.
If you have an opportunity to be with a Psychologist, just confess and I am certain they will help guide you.
Xenophobes must not be hated but they do deserve heavy punishment including long term imprisonment as they bring humanity into a state of permanent warfare. They are buffoons of counter-development and one of the primary reasons for the frustration of all forward-looking efforts. They belong to a planet inspired by being out of touch with reality.
As stated earlier Xenophobia and Racism are twins which, therefore, puts Xenophobes in the same category as the Apartheid system that was captained by Louis Botha, Jan B Hertzog, Jan Smuts, DF Malan, Hendrik Verwoerd, Frederik W de Klerk, Pieter W Botha and many others belonging to the long list of racists. It also puts them in the same category as those homophobes who have found it proper to make Caster Semenya a misery because God and biology made her who she is. If you are a Xenophobe, that is where you belong.
My university experiences (though on racism), equipped me to become a better person. Today, I have worked or studied or did both, and continue to do so with all racial and most tribal groups (using the 11 official languages as a measurement/determining factor) in South Africa. I have worked with colleagues that are from other countries, and wish to be exposed to more. If they are xenophobic towards me, it is not in my interest to retaliate – two wrongs do not make a right.
Talking to one another, thus getting to know each other better, is the only solution.
Stay blessed over the weekend.