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Xenophobia is, literally translated, the "fear of the unknown" and generally explained as fear or hatred/contempt of outsiders, i.e. people from different cultures, religions or a different ethnic background. Empirical research, however, shows that the underlying emotion that is related to "xenophobic" behaviour is actually linked to emotion of disgust rather than fear.
What particular kind of outsiders is up to the individual xenophobe, but it is most often used to refer to foreigners or to minority group strongly associated with a foreign country deemed threatening. However, for a particularly provincial person, it could also refer to people from outside the particular state/province, county, or town.
Few people will ever admit to being xenophobic, instead trying to pretend that it is some particular, justified concern that makes them want to keep all foreigners away. For instance, they may claim falsehoods that immigrants depress wages, immigrants bring the "bad" aspects of culture with them, immigrants commit more crime, immigrants cannot assimilate into their country, and immigrants threaten their ethnic/racial/national identity.
It is far from obvious, as often suggested by certain political activists, that racism or nationalism and xenophobia tend to go together. While racism and nationalism are explicit and formalized beliefs, with certain theoretical commitments (such as the existence of different human races that can be hierarchically ordered) and strong normative claims about other ethnic groups or other countries/nation stations, xenophobia is related to implicit bias. Following the logic of these concepts, as well as the empirical research that explains these phenomena, these are radically different kinds of behaviour with different cognitive and neural mechanisms that cause them.
Not to be confused with the fear of the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess or its title character. Also not to be confused with Xenophilia which is attraction to foreigners, especially those who are not of Pure Blood. Especially not to be confused with fear of Xenu, the Big Bad in Scientology.
- Friend argument: "I'm not xenophobic, I have many of them as friends"
- I'm not racist, but...
- Secure the border