X is for xenophobia

Serpent and Apple

Each week’s news  is marked with a new set of horrible stories about people killing complete strangers merely because of their ethnicity, religion, nationality, or skin color.  In recent times ISIS, or whatever these lunatic perpetrators of evil  have killed anyone that does not follow their religion.  Take for example their persecution of Yazidi women and massacres of at least 5,000 Yazidi civilians.

History is filled with xenophobia the  Jewish holocaust led to approximately 6 million European Jews being mass murdered in concentration camps and forced labour during the Second World War.

Can you imagine that at one time there were “human zoos” 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. Men, women and children would be kidnapped, caged, then exhibited in front of European audiences. Visitors to these “zoos” would make fun of the exhibits and poke them with sticks, throw food at them, treating them like animals and for an extra fee were allowed to subject the captives to some degrading acts. Human zoos existed in places like Paris, London, Barcelona, and Antwerp. Sarah Baartman died after years spent in European “freak shows”. She had very pronounced buttocks, due to a build-up of fat, which made a cause for European fascination.  Wealthy customers could pay for private demonstrations in their homes, with their guests allowed to touch her.

She is seen by many as the epitome of colonial exploitation and racism, of the ridicule and commodification of black people.


Xenophobia seems ingrained not only in humans, but also in the animal kingdom.

According to a  biological anthropologist from Harvard, male chimpanzees brutally beat and kill chimps from other groups, indeed male groups vigorously patrol the boundaries of their territories searching for isolated males from neighboring groups.  Ants equally are liable to such behavior , conducting warfare with one another.

Apparently Males are much more likely to be perpetrators of racial discrimination, but equally likely to be the victims of such discrimination. Xenophobia is something that is spread universally.

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.


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This article is part of a blogging challenge,



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