Xenophobia in America
America is supposed to be a nation of tolerance. These days however, rising anger and resentment seems to be bleeding through her stars and stripes.
Protests against the construction of new mosques, illegal immigration, and economic reform, point to a fear and frustration that has some warning of a US public increasingly swapping patriotism for nationalism.
“It definitely is Xenophobia. It’s a fear of the other,” said Curt Goering, Amnesty International Senior Deputy Executive Director.
Xenophobia is defined as an unreasonable fear or hatred of the unfamiliar, especially people of other race or religion. Discrimination in the US has various labels including Islamophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, or racism.
Arye Sachs created what he calls mobile art aviation. A missile decorated with signs equating Islam to terrorism. At the front, a mannequin dressed as an Arab. Sachs drives the missile all over New York aiming to garner opposition against the proposed development for an Islamic cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.
“Muslims are associated with terror. That everybody knows. The no fly list has ninety nine percent of Muslims," said Sachs.
Executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York, Zead Ramadan, said his office has received demeaning pictures of a burning Koran through the mail from anonymous senders.
"There’s been an obvious spike of hate crimes and Islamophobic rhetoric and attacks on mosques throughout the country from California to Wisconsin to Tennessee, to the planned Koran burning on 9/11 in Gainesville, Florida," said Ramadan.
Amnesty international believes the rage is being exploited, not tempered by US politicians or candidates running for office.
“These are crimes that are motivated by hate, intolerance, or bigotry,” said Goering.
At Tea Party rallies around the country, frustrations over taxes and joblessness are aimed more directly at US President Barack Obama and the nation’s broken immigration system.
According to the FBI, Obama has garnered more death threats than any other American president.
Undocumented immigrants are also feeling a backlash from the American public.
Arrested and detained in Arizona. Beaten and bruised in New York where racial tensions have erupted in some low-income neighborhoods between African Americans and Mexicans. Many attribute the violence to economic hardship.
"If you’re a Mexican immigrant and people think you’re a threat to a job or something like that. They’re going to throw us all in one basket. Anyone who looks different all of a sudden becomes bad," said Ramadan.
An alarming downturn in America’s mood and discourse has created a public frustrated and divided. A new landscape that has some asking if the land founded on freedom is becoming a land consumed by hate.
Rev. Graylan Hagler minister at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ said racism and intolerance have been around since the beginning of the United States. At one point in time only land owners had a say in the functions of society, he explained.
“When we look at the Founding Fathers with having folks who were enslaved, it was always to make sure that you had somehow an exploited population and those who exploited that population so that you had workers,” he said.
There is a history in the US of making sure there were people who were less-of-citizens than others to continually exploit them in the economic process.
“Racism really has a lot to do with economics as much as it has to do with skin color,” said Hagler.
He explained that every immigrant group has had problems coming to America and assimilating.
The demographics are changing today in America. Groups of immigrants are coming to the US from Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East.
“Happen to be people with darker skin, that are coming in and that’s what people are seeing and that’s a part of the angst and the fear and the xenophobia that is playing out is because people are looking up and in spite of all the accolades about being a diverse nation, it was still considered to be a white nations, a white protestant nation,” said Hagler.
Hagler further said that the fact America has now elected its first non-white president only exasperates the situation.
“Those who felt this was a white protestant nation are fearful that the rug is being pulled out from under them,” Hagler added.