Difference Between Xenophobia and Racism

When we start to see a great increase in the progress of two closely associated unwelcomed terms like ‘Xenophobia’ and ‘Racism’, it’s never a good sign. Across the globe, people are seen discriminating others unlike them, on the basis of their caste, race, origin and unfamiliarity, which gave rise to Xenophobia and Racism. Though xenophobia is somewhat similar to racism, their concept is vastly different.

Xenophobia v/s Racism

The main difference between Xenophobia and Racism is that xenophobia is a phobia or hateful feelings of strangers and foreigners while racism is a broader belief that ethnic differences create the intrinsic supremacy of a particular race. Xenophobia refers to the fear of the unknown whereas racism portrays that any race can tell the characteristics of a human and their position makes them stronger than others.

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Xenophobia is a combination of the words Xeno and phobia which means strange or foreign and fear respectively. It is the feeling of hatred and feel of something that is perceived to be strange or not known. Guido Bolaffi, an Italian sociologist stated that xenophobia can also be displayed as an unimportant magnification of another culture.

Racism is referred to a belief that the group of human beings portrays a different set of characteristics associated with the hereditary attributes and can be separated based on the supremacy of one race over the other. Racism also describes a situation in society where a dominant group of people takes advantage of the other groups below them.

Comparison Table Between Xenophobia and Racism

Parameters of ComparisonXenophobiaRacism
DefinitionXenophobia is related to the feeling of unlikeness towards a particular body.Racism is a belief that the characteristics define the supremacy of an individual.
Comprise ofIt comprises multiple factors.It comprises a single factor.
Discriminated onThey discriminate on the basis of hatred or not knowing the other.They discriminate on the basis of their cultural values and beliefs.
How they reactPeople are afraid of others.People treat other races’ people disrespectfully.
UsedXenophobia was used for discriminating against the immigrants because of the fear of being affected by them.Racism was used during the slavery era where African people were dominated by Americans due to their skin color.

What is Xenophobia?

The term Xenophobia is used to explain the dislike or hatred of someone that is strange or is from a different country or state. Merriam Webster defined Xenophobia as fear and hatred that is associated with anyone who is a foreigner or stranger. The term Xenophobia is derived from the words ‘Xenos’ and ‘phobos’ meaning ‘stranger’ and ‘fear’ respectively. Xenophobia was believed to have risen from irrational behaviour or ignorance. In other words, xenophobia is considered to be free from anything different from the things that are known. It is the mindset of people who has fear of accepting the things that can change their attitude or personality.

Xenophobia can be demonstrated in two forms of terror towards a particular group of population in the society and other cultures. The first form attacks the people of the society who differ in culture, race, politics, ethnicity, and religion and is commonly done to the immigrants. Immigrants who stay in big cities and countries like America are discriminated against due to them being different. The second form of xenophobia targets the places where the acceptance of different cultures are seen. The most common example of this form is the ban of Valentine’s Day in countries like India, Malaysia, etc, as they state it to be westernization and slaughtering of their values.

What is Racism?

The term Racism was used originally to separate or differentiate and place the people together who followed the same beliefs, practices, and actions. It was used to separate biological bodies into different races. The people who have the same race share a similar set of traits, capabilities, or nature. Today, this term is defined as the trait that is inherited by people that makes them dominant or recessive to others. Racism is referred to a belief which states that race is the first factor of human characteristics and abilities and that racial dissimilarities make intrinsic supremacy of a particular race.

The actual definition of this word is debatable due to the small consensus between the experts about what is race and what inaugurates as racism. Some people define racism as the ability or behavior of a person which is been characterized by his race. There is no accurate meaning of the term racism due to which, what can be considered as racism is not yet fixed. Racism was commonly used during the time of slavery where mostly black people were counted as an inferior group and were dominated by the whites. They were distinguished from the whites in the schooling, means of transport, drinking water facilities and public toilets or sanitation, etc.

Main Differences Between Xenophobia and Racism

  1. Xenophobia is a term related to the hatred or fear of something unknown while racism is solely a belief that a person’s race makes them superior or inferior.
  2. A Xenophobic person is unlike any person who is different from them while racism doesn’t accept the people who do not belong to their trait.
  3. In Xenophobia, people in a culture are afraid of other cultures whereas, in racism, the people treat others with disrespect.
  4. Xenophobia is comprised of many different aspects while racism has only one aspect.
  5. In xenophobia, people are discriminated against based on a person’s liking whereas, in racism, people are discriminated against in the basics of culture and ethnicity.


In conclusion, both the terms xenophobia and racism are related to some kind of hatred or unlikeness of a person or a thing. Xenophobia is a term for the terror or fear of something a person doesn’t know which might influence their personality or nature whereas racism doesn’t have a proper definition but is a belief about the race of a person that determines their superiority or inferiority.

Both these words are used to portray negative feelings towards others. Xenophobia can be dealt with as a person can learn about others and change their perspective but racism is a firm set of beliefs that can’t be easily changed.


  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01419870.1997.9993946
  2. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0306396816657719
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