Thursday, 5 September 2019

What really is Xenophobia? —by Princewill Odidi

Photograph demonstrates South Africans lynching a foreign national 
5 September 2019 

Xenophobia is often defined as "deep-rooted fear towards foreigners". Fear that your culture or heritage will be taken away by foreigners. Or fear that a foreign group will grow too powerful and treat you like nonentities. I watched a commentary last night where a black South African lamented how they are treated by Nigerians and how this has led to hatred. 

He complained that over and over again Nigerians in South Africa keep saying South African blacks are lazy. They curse and look down on South Africans. They even tell them to their face, you are stupid, the white man dominate you and we Africans from other countries are here doing better than you. 

He expressed that this had built up hatred leading to those human slaughter we all witnessed online. He complained that the Whiteman dominate and discriminate against them but do not put it on their faces as Nigerians do. 

Now, this complain is very similar with the complains we have in America between Africans and African Americans. It is a common thing to hear Africans calling African Americans as lazy, living in a land of opportunities but begging. The only difference in America is that majority of Africans do not live in the same neighborhood with African Americans. So there's no room for xenophobic attacks. White Americans actually get along and understand Africans better than our African American brothers. 

Most Africans in America live in White neighborhoods so xenophobia could not arise. 

As for South Africa, Xenophobic hatred will continue because no amount of policing can stop it. It is more a crime of passion. 

Withdrawal of our Ambassador from South Africa  is not the solution because even the South African government is helpless at this point. 

The only way to fix the problem is for Nigerians in South Africa to move away from black South African neighborhoods and integrate into the larger South Africa, living in Indian or white areas. 

Black South Africans complain that Nigerians come in, because they have money, they buy their houses and convert original home owners to tenants. That's the main cause of xenophobic threats. 

Since the problem is that of perception, no amount of public education or sermon on the mount can stop it. Xenophobia will continue, the hatred will continue, black South African police will still stand aside while Nigerians are lynched. 

Xenophobia is that deep rooted fear towards foreigners especially as it relates to cultural domination. Maybe prayer can solve it, but no solution at sight. 

Princewill Odidi is a social entrepreneur, development expert, philanthropist and public affairs who writes from Atlanta 

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