Why we fear the “other”

Over the last year, I have seen a wave of racism and prejudice towards immigrants and refugees that I have never seen in my life time. It has always amazed me that people can sit and watch innocent people die whilst they try and escape their country to make a better life for themselves. With the executive order from Donald Trump banning entry to people from a select few countries, I want to understand the reasoning behind what appears to be selfish and evil behaviour, and work out what can be done to end it.

Social beings
Before beginning to understand why people have such horrible beliefs about immigrants, first we must understand ourselves. Humans are social beings who live in social groups, ranging from friendship and family groups, to cities and countries. These are groups with whom we share common ground – these are our in groups. On the flip side, there are different families, cites and countries amongst us. Similar people just like us, who are not part of our close knit in group – these are our out groups.
As anyone can tell you, we all want what is best for our in group. Thus by promoting our positives and highlighting the negatives of the out group, self esteem can be generated that makes everyone within the in group feel better. An identity can be built – a social identity. It is this that Henri Tajfel coined, Social Identity Theory. This is why supporters of the same football team will sing offensive songs about rivals. This is why grouping people will encourage them to seek what is best for their own group; to generate a sense of identity that will allow people to thrive in our social environment. However, in extreme cases this is where prejudice towards out group members can arise, in an attempt at building our own self esteem.
The other
Due to the terrible humanitarian crisis that it currently happening throughout Syria and surrounding areas, refugees are seeking safe places to live. Unfortunately for them, they are seen by many as the out group; similar people who do not belong to the in group’s way of life. And out group members trying to gain access to the in group never ends well. Hatred is spread, and prejudice based on lies is generated in a torrid attempt at maintaining in group identity and refusing integration with rival groups. This makes it even harder for immigrants to develop a relationship due to their negative stereotypes and seemingly bad reputation. Furthermore, with the state leaders (I’m looking at you, Donald Trump) only adding fuel to the fire, you get into the position we are currently in. Innocent people fleeing their country in search of safety, only to be turned away at the borders or to be tormented further if let in.
What can be done
Despite what may seem a hopeless situation, there is hope. Integrating in and out group members in a safe and stable environment, and learning one another’s cultures can generate a relationship that works for everyone. Helping each other is the best way to understand that different social groups are not too dissimilar, and that we can all live and have experiences as one. The executive order banning innocent people who have no intention of harming anyone only intensifies the hostility among in and out groups, and I fear that in the fight against terror, it will do more harm than good.
I urge people who have fears about refugees coming to their country to read and learn. Gain a better understanding about these “out group” members, and accept them as our own.
Many thanks for taking the time to read my post. I hope you learned something.
Courtney

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