Differences Between Xenophobia and Racism

In this globalized world, the dynamics of inequality have reached a much larger scale than before. Nowadays, it is much easier for larger proportions of the population of a country to come into contact with people from other places, or belonging to other ethnic groups.

All this means that discrimination based on the place from which one comes or the culture to which one belongs is expressed in a very visible way. Of course, to speak properly, we must understand the forms that this discrimination takes. Therefore, in this article we will see what are the differences between xenophobia and racism, two types of hostile bias towards people considered “outsiders”.

Differences between racism and xenophobia

Racism and xenophobia are two phenomena linked together, since in both there is an element of rejection of the different that works in a logic of identification with the group and exclusion of those who do not fall into this category.

However, they differ in very important aspects that allow understanding how they are expressed in society; Therefore, we must know how to distinguish between xenophobia and racism in order to address these problems by directing our attention to what they really are, without falling into errors resulting from confusion.

Of course, we must bear in mind that these two types of discrimination do not have totally defined limits, and often overlap; For this reason, many times people with xenophobic or racist behavior treat ethnic groups and nationalities as if they were races, and vice versa.

That said, let’s look at the differences that allow us to distinguish between these two concepts.

1. Racism is based on racialization, xenophobia at borders

It is now known that human races do not exist as biological entities, but as anthropological categories and social psychology. That is to say, the typical classification of the different races that distinguishes between whites, blacks and Mongoloids (sometimes also reserves a separate category for Native Americans) is a mirage from the point of view of biology and genetics, a product of the historical dynamics and the processes of discrimination.

Therefore, those who are the targets of racist attacks, physical or otherwise, are racialized people; that is, people who are perceived as belonging to a race, although this race is a concept defined in an arbitrary way. Of course, the definition of race is usually based on physical features: skin color, shape of the eyes, hair type, etc.
In the case of xenophobia, the boundaries that separate the group to which one belongs and the groups to which they belong to others are also historical constructions (boundaries and linguistic limits, for example), but these do not have a biological component and do not they rely heavily on the aesthetics of people’s bodily features.

2. Xenophobia appeals to culture

Another difference between xenophobia and racism is that the former centers its discourse on the preservation of its own culture: rituals and traditions, religion, language, lifestyle and similar aspects, while racism appeals to hypothetically belonging entities to our biology.

Thus, an unequivocally xenophobic message would be, for example, one that encourages the expulsion of foreigners because they belong to another religion, while a racist discourse would call for the preservation of racial purity so as not to mix with individuals who are supposedly profoundly incompatible with us because they have other traits. psychological and biological: different level of intelligence, propensity to aggressiveness, etc.

Thus, xenophobia speaks of cultural elements that are transmitted from generation to generation through education, imitation and learning, while racism speaks of elements genetically transmitted through reproduction, and that according to the xenophobes are innate traits.

3. Racism seeks to legitimize itself by psychometrics and basic psychology, xenophobia by sociology

As we have seen, xenophobia differs from racism in that it does not appeal so much to traits studied by basic psychology and biology, but rather to statistics that describe cultural dynamics.

Therefore, racism tries to rely on experimental and psychometric studies that have relatively small samples, while xenophobia goes to sociological studies. Of course, you have to have note that the size of the sample that the studies have does not serve to know if an investigation is valid or not.

4. Racism supports integration less

Neither racism nor xenophobia relies on the ability of discriminated groups to adapt to the societies that in theory “do not belong”.

However, from xenophobic perspectives it is not uncommon to believe that in small quantities certain individuals of other ethnic groups can adopt the customs and ways of thinking of the people considered proper to the place, while racism also denies the possibility of these cases supposedly anecdotal integration, since a race can not be changed to be hypothetically a biological entity linked to the genetics of the individual.