Ending Xenophobia

The need to end the fear that divides

Christina Youn, Co-Editor-In-Chief

On Wed., Feb. 22, a man opened fire at a bar in Olathe, MO on two technology workers of Indian descent after reportedly yelling, “Get out of my country.” Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed, and Alok Madasani and Ian Grillot, a bystander, were both injured. The FBI announced on Tues., Feb. 28 that the case would be investigated as a hate crime.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, xenophobia is defined as “dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries” and unfortunately, it is becoming widespread. There have been too many stories of discrimination in the news recently. Even Dictionary.com’s Word of the Year for 2016 was—sadly—“xenophobia.” Unfortunately, it is evident that this negative mentality has already bled into 2017. In this time of such turmoil and fear, it is especially important that we overlook our differences and realize the gravity of this situation. It is crucial that we take the time to make sure that this history does not repeat itself again.

Our nation is a land of immigrants who have come together for the same purpose—to pursue a better life. Whether it be in search of an education, a better job, religious freedom, or even land in the 1800s, our unifying characteristic has been that we all just wanted a brighter future for ourselves and those who would come after us. In other words, we all had the same start, and the only difference is the time period in which we came to this nation.

Despite this, it seems that we are seeing more of the differences that separate than the similarities that unite. Instead of seeing someone for who that person truly is as a human being, we are quick to see the color of his or her skin and the garments he or she has chosen to wear. We rapidly make assumptions based on those initial judgements. However, by doing this, we are not only hurting the minority groups, but also hurting ourselves and our nation as a whole.

The mentality of fearing differences is causing our society to become more close-minded and polarized than ever before. Because we stick to those who are more like us and have a tendency to negatively judge those who are different, we are bound to isolate ourselves from those who aren’t part of the group. This only strengthens our beliefs and makes us even more unaware of what is going on in the lives of those who are different. This polarization and isolation is causing various misunderstandings.

However, it is vital to realize that diversity is what makes our nation stronger. It is because all the different people who have come together and brought their strengths that the U.S. is able to distinguish itself from other countries. The diversity within our country is quite remarkable. We have people from all aspects of life in this nation. And because of this, it is that much more important that we embrace this and use it to our advantage. Continuing with this xenophobic mindset is only hurting us in the end.

In order for change to take place, it needs to start on the personal level. People need to truly make an effort to get to know others who aren’t like themselves, rather than continuing to become comfortable in preexisting groups. This is the solution to breaking down xenophobia. We must experience more in order to be able to educate ourselves about the lives of those who are different. Without truly getting to know these individuals, our differences will only continue to divide us.

Now I’m not saying that it isn’t okay to feel more comfortable around those who are similar to us. Having familiar cultures, interests, and experiences undoubtedly and automatically pull us toward a certain group of people just because it is easier to relate to those individuals. However, what I am saying, is that we should not let this comfort level determine who we interact with. We should be willing to step out of our comfort zone in an effort to truly get to know those who are different.

By taking that step to get to know others who are different, not only will it benefit that individual, but we will be able to overcome our nation’s xenophobia epidemic. In a society when norms are quickly changing, an open mind is especially important for being able to move forward as a nation. In order to prevent more of the tragedies like those of the Olathe shooting, steps must be taken to put an end to xenophobia.