Going by the reports that are surfacing in the media from time to time, it is clear that people are becoming ever more xenophobic. You can see evidence for this in the fact that right-wing anti-immigration political parties, whose rhetoric is strongly in favor of xenophobia, are becoming more and more popular in Europe. You can also see evidence for this in the fact that xenophobic presidential candidates are starting to attract some following in America, something that would have been impossible several decades back. Add to this the xenophobia-fueled attacks that we are starting to see with scary frequency, and you realize that the time has come when we really have to do something about xenophobia. And as it turns out, one of the things that can be done to combat xenophobia is the promotion of multiculturalism.
It is critical to understand that there are two major factors that fuel xenophobia. First is the issue of resource scarcity: where ‘hosts’ feel that the ‘newcomers’ are likely to gobble up the (scarce) resources meant for them. Second is the issue of culture: where the ‘hosts’ feel that the ‘newcomers’ are likely to ‘defile’ or otherwise mess up with their cultures. It is with respect to this second aspect where promotion of multiculturalism can come in handy, as an antidote for xenophobia. The objective is to get the ‘hosts’ to appreciate that the ‘newcomers’ won’t necessarily end up ‘defiling’ their cultures. On the contrary, there is a high probability of the ‘newcomers’ ending up enriching the ‘hosts’ cultures.
When we talk about multiculturalism as an antidote for xenophobia, it is critical for us to appreciate that this isn’t just within the political context – as in when dealing with xenophobia within a given nation or state. It is also something to be thought about within organizational contexts. Let’s assume, for instance, that you run a company that manufactures top rated exercise equipment. Let’s be more specific, and assume that the company in question is involved in the manufacture of what are supposedly the best rated elliptical machines. In that context, you may find cases of intra-organizational ‘xenophobia’: where old-timers in the company start expressing a certain level of hostility to newcomers. In this case, it would be a situation where the adherents of the organization’s old culture would be feeling that they are threatened by the new comers. Promotion of multiculturalism here would therefore revolve around getting the adherents of the organization’s old culture to accept that they have something to learn from the newcomers – and that the newcomers aren’t necessarily a threat to them.