Over the last decade or so the philosophical contributions to scholarship about racism has been significant. These contributions have distinguished and clarified various concepts of racism. The result is that a number of theories are now available that can markedly improve general discussions about racism and its moral harms.
Many segments in this literature have been about how racism interacts with other categories of discrimination and oppression, e.g., sexism, misogyny, class-ism, and homophobia. One mode of interaction that needs closer attention is between racism and xenophobia. One reason this would be productive is because xenophobia hasn’t received the attention from philosophers in the United States that racism has, and, thus, what xenophobia is, in relation to and apart from other forms of discrimination and exclusion is unclear. Secondly, getting clearer about xenophobia would improve our conceptual grasp of racism.
This is where particular group experiences within particular contexts matter. For example, anti-black racism, which has been the paradigm for thinking about U.S. racism, can be, and has been, theorized apart from xenophobia. Indeed, the dominant doxastic and non-doxastic accounts of racism have made little mention of xenophobia. Xenophobia, however, has been an integral part of the experience of racism on the part of Asians and Asian Americans, and to ignore it seems it to be a considerable mistake. This is the subject of my first question: Is the particular Asian and Asian American experience of racism and xenophobia in the United States more than a mere example of either concept? Does that experience elucidate something about the structure of racism or xenophobia that goes beyond standard conceptualizations of either idea?
This leads to my second question: Is racism conceptually related to xenophobia, and vice versa? In other words, does the conceptual core of racism overlap with that of xenophobia? Or are they separate and independent concepts?
Evidence for the former is found in the practice of racializing foreigners and aliens since the rise of the modern conceptions of race in the nineteenth century. Yet, the assimilation of xenophobia by racism may be resisted because there are cases, perhaps mainly in Europe, where xenophobia of aliens is found without racism. If, however, xenophobia can be assimilated then the term may be superfluous or redundant and can safely fall out of use.
An important related issue is the role of xenophilia in racism. Asians and Asian Americans in the United States have experienced racism that has strong xenophobic elements, but also xenophilic elements. The stereotypes of the “dragon-lady” and “geisha” are cases in point, as are hypomasculinist stereotypes of Asian American men. This leads to my third question: What is the role of xenophilia in racism, and, perhaps, even in xenophobia?