Xenophobia in Modern America: Fear of the Immigrant

Xenophobia is best known as an irrational fear of the foreign, including fear of race and the immigrant.  In looking at recent American history, it is clear that racism and fear of the supposed outsider has been a disturbing part of American culture for a long time.  In regard to the continuing struggle of Native Americans, African Americans, and Latin Americans to obtain civil rights as well as the ongoing hurdles for immigrants to be warmly accepted into this country, xenophobia obviously still plays a large part in the dysfunction of American culture.  As a nation, United States citizens can be rightly embarrassed of their unjust fear and apprehension in regard to dealing with minorities and people who are considered to be new and different.Opposing some mainstream thoughts such as European superiority over other people, it is good to meditate on the vicious acts which have been imposed on the minorities by the mainstream cultures.

  The killing and forcible extraction of Native Americans from their lands, the forced slavery and torn families of African Americans, and the harassment and fencing off of immigrants such as Latin Americans all lend to the idea that the mainstream European American culture has had and still has serious defects in regard to the application of civil rights for all people.  If one takes the idea of amnesty, pardon, for what some people term “illegal aliens”, one must also laugh to oneself at the silliness of the idea.  What would make people assume that innocent people who move from one country to another are in need of any type of forgiveness for doing so?  It should be American society who often stands on a podium of intimidation and fear who apologizes to all of the people she terms “illegal aliens” (Portes & Rumbaut 32).The current issue of amnesty for undocumented immigrants (“illegal aliens”) is probably the best modern example of hatred and xenophobia perpetuated on a foreign minority by the bigoted mainstream culture.  Some people claim that immigrants use too much of the social tax money for the lower classes.

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  However, one has to look first at the government and tax system for ethical problems.  Is it ok to forcibly take tax money from citizens in the first place?  Wouldn’t charity for the lower classes and social systems work much better if it were a free choice to give?  If citizens are primarily concerned about the social burden, the taxes which go to the poor, it makes far more sense to rid the government of unethical taxation before it rids the country of innocent people.  According to a recent study in Texas, it was noted that immigrants in cities and urban areas do drain the tax system more than they contribute to it, however, in the entire state as a whole, immigrants actually contribute more to the tax system than they receive, creating a tax surplus simply due to their presence in Texas.  So, even if taxation is either unethical or a point of concern for citizens, there is still no reason to be fearful of a drain on the economy by immigrants (Weintraub 733).

Racism and fear of the foreign has been a part of cultural interaction probably since the very earliest times of human civilization, however, in this modern time of widespread, global communication and awareness and international mixing of people and cultures, it is increasingly vital to rid injustice and wrongful discrimination from communities.  The fear of someone speaking another language, practicing other religions, having different physical features such as hair and skin type, or behaving safely in any way other than the norm, has no rightful place in modern culture, or historical culture for that matter.  What brought humanity to so low of an ethical standard that some people could be ostracized from society for reasons such as having dark skin, being Catholic, or speaking Spanish?  It is very hard to understand.  However, it’s vital for people to recognize their prejudices against foreign people for reasons centering on unjust discrimination (Coutin 5).In looking to other reasons for the criminalization of immigration, one also has to note the fear of competition in the hearts of Americans.  Although many Americans support free enterprise and healthy competition, there are also a group of Americans who feel threatened by the incoming flow of labor into the country.  Some of these Americans want to hold onto their jobs and the status quo at any cost, even if it means the rejection of certain people from their country.  Although making immigrants social outcasts seems like a very harsh way of dealing with the fear of competition, there is still an element of society who would rather not have the competition at all, putting a wall up against the principle of free markets.

  In this sense, fear of the outsider, the newcomer, doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to a race, but is rather tied to the unkind idea of resisting something incoming which is foreign and undesired (Ngai 161).What some Americans perceive as an immigration crisis may very well be the incredibly sick contradiction lying within the hearts of her citizens and governmental policies.  Many of this country’s 12% immigrants are Mexican, and in what Massey terms as a “schizophrenic” effect, American’s are striving for both an integrated North America with permeable borders in regard to the flow of money, goods and services, yet impermeable to the movement of workers.  In America’s fear and selfishness, she desires the Mexican business, but not the people, and in a vain attempt to integrate markets and not people, Americans spend billions dollars in taxes on border enforcement which is “worse than useless—it is counterproductive”.  The business and work of the immigrants are desired by many, yet their actual presence often is not (Massey 310).

In looking back into history and following up to modern day, it has always been that the foreign, different minorities were in some ways valued for their work by some citizens, the trade with the Natives, the field work of the Africans, the labor of the Mexicans, yet the actual ascension of the minority person to the status of a citizen has often been fought tooth and nail.  How can this be so?  What makes a person worthy of labor yet unworthy of being a part of the club?  The fear of everyone being equal and having a fair chance has always been a part of elitist societies and often lies in the weak hearts of mainstream citizens.  What people need to do is to confront their apprehensions one by one and see how they themselves can make changes personally.  Resistance to other people is only marked by incapability in knowing the meaning of true meaning of comradery and goodwill.Although some immigrants are valued for their work, some immigrants are also held guilty by for winning jobs which some selfish people believe should belong to a European American or other more highly deserving person.

  The fear of competition, of crowding, of differences has no place in a modern world which espouses to support the values of freedom, fraternity, and diversity.  Has American society become so competitive in her way of dealing with others, especially perceived outsiders, that she has forgotten how to work as a team and get along?  Many people, not only in the United States, perceive some Americans as being difficult to work with, greedy, selfish, and even brutish.  In looking back at American distant and recent past history, can the citizens deny that the Unites States has issued many severe attacks against the innocent?  As long as irrational fear of the different or unknown has a place in the midst of modern societies, xenophobia will continue to run rampant and cripple the culture and economy of America.

Author: Dominic Phelps


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