So, this post isn't for xenophobia, it's anti xenophobia, but that didn't look right in the title. Just so we're clear...
What is xenophobia anyway? It's the fear and hatred of people who are different from you. Basically, you hold your people (whatever that means to you) in high esteem and significantly dislike and/or are fearful of people who are different from you. Most of the time, this word is used in terms of race, but in recent years we've seen it used more often in regards to religion (hello Islamophobia). But fill in any form of prejudice and it still applies:
Socioeconomic Status (all poor people are lazy)
Disability *Visible or Not Visible* (I don't want kids with ADHD in class with my child)
Country of Origin (Mexicans are rapists - sound familiar?)
Family Structure (All single mothers are poor and on welfare)
Neighborhood/Region (A lot of the kids at that school are from across the river - something very real here in DC)
All of these quotes don't necessarily sound like hate (except the rapist one - I mean, c'mon), but they are the precursors to hateful feelings and behaviors. When we read articles that talk about teenagers who engage in hateful behaviors (such as this... and this... and this...), it's important to remember that these behaviors did not come out of nowhere. These kids learned these feelings and attitudes from somewhere. More often than not, the message that these attitudes are ok are communicated inadvertently. But that doesn't make them any less powerful...
So how do you raise a kid who is not xenophobic? A child, and eventual adult, who values and appreciates people who are different from them. Here are a few suggestions. There are always more options, but start with these - especially the first one. It's really important:
What will you try first? Let us know what you try in the comments below. And check back next week for letter Y. Better yet, sign up for the newsletter so you don't have to remember to check. Tips, strategies, & fun delivered right to your inbox every week. Share with others & enjoy!
Dr. Sweeney is a licensed school psychologist and cultural competence expert. Here are her musings on life in a multicultural world.
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