Xenophobia Examples in World History
The Jewish holocaust when approximately 6 million European Jews were mass murdered in concentration camps and forced labour during the Second World War. Hitler believed in the supremacy of the Aryan race and Nazi Germany and didn’t want it polluted by Jewish occupation. It also led to Jewish exclusion from social and public life with several organizations inserting the Aryan paragraph in their statutes, a move which reserved membership only for members of the superior Aryan race. The most touching record of what could possibly be the worst example of not just anti-Semitism but state-sponsored xenophobia is the diary of Annelies Marie "Anne" Frank, a German Jew who died before the war ended.
The Ku Klux Klan was an anti-Black movement in the America of the early 1900s. (It was actually born in the previous century but it was the resurrected version that is remembered for its cruelty.) The Klan was infamous for the lynching and murder of whole black families, community leaders and Black sympathizers. Identified by their hoods and flowing white robes, their movement also took on a religious colour as it was pro-white Protestant and preached Anti-Catholicism. The Klan has remnants to this day, although a very subdued and almost inactive version.
Yet another lasting example of state-imposed racial segregation is the apartheid period of South African history (1948-1994). Blacks were denied citizenship, access to quality healthcare, public services, education and all amenities which had long been declared as basic human rights. The discrimination continued till the African National Party, led by Nelson Mandela, passed the anti-apartheid legislation.
The Indian caste system, though not a racial issue, is still related to xenophobia. The class system which later evolved into the five general levels of caste divisions continues to be widely endorsed by Hindus. Despite legislation promising them a fair share of opportunity, Dalits (lower-caste) Hindus continue to form among the poorest sections of Indian society.
Human zoos used to be a popular attraction in the West in the 19th and 20th centuries. These ‘public exhibits’ of human beings (caged, sometimes with exotic animals) introduced the West to the ‘barbarians’ of the East. Particularly popular exhibits were those of Africans, tribal pygmies, and the Philippines.
During the Second World War, especially after the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941, Japanese Canadians found themselves with the short end of the stick. Xenophobic public sentiment forced them out of their homes to a government-declared ‘safe zone’ where they were deprived of even basic human amenities. During the internment period, racial segregation also led to the loss of their civil liberties. Even after these war-time measures were removed, apologies were late in the coming to these Japanese immigrants. Also, those who chose to move back to their original states found that they had to rebuild their lives from scratch.
Rwanda’s infamous genocide was probably the worst humanity has ever seen. Ethnic strife, a simmering civil war and political competitiveness between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis led to the killing of several thousands of Tutsis in the space of a mere hundred days. Over 800,000 people are reported to have been killed in those mass killings. Even peace-brokering Hutus weren’t spared in the massacre. The genocide was also deemed a method of ‘ethnic cleansing’. Numerous Tutsi women were raped in full public view and the media has been accused of propagating anti-Tutsi sentiment during the period, especially channels like Radio Rwanda that was a dominant news source for illiterate people. In fact, it encouraged the killings in no uncertain terms, motivating listeners to kill “Tutsi cockroaches”.
Women were raped several times over and many were confined to ‘rape camps’; men and young boys were beaten to death, mercilessly; over two hundred thousand people were massacred during that civil war. Ethnic conflicts fuelled the war in the former Yugoslavia, as each tried to wipe out the other. Between 1991 and 1995, as the Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks and Slovenes fought over political domination, hundreds of thousands of civilians died.
The 2009 records of the racially motivated attacks against Indians (particularly students) in Australia made headline news for a long period. Hate crimes were reported by the day, starting with the late night attack on an Indian taxi-driver and then further reports of attacks on Indian students surfaced.