Do you have fears? Unreasonable fears?

Some do — hypochondriacs, acrophobics, claustrophobics and xenophobics.

I can relate to acrophobia and claustrophobia, because I suffer from both.

Often these fears are related to physiological imbalances rather than psychological issues.

xenophobe | noun one unduly fearful of what is foreign and especially of people of foreign origin. — xenophobic | adjective — xenophobically | adverb

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Our minds do not have to imagine or think too much on the possible areas where xenophobes might be found in our society.  Too often it seems someone is wanting someone else out of their community, their religion, their politics, their country.

Once upon a time, as a child living in the south, I imagined that the racism around me was because members of my family and some of our neighbors did not like other people.  As I grew older and left home for college, my eyes were opened.  The college I attended was located in the small town of Pulaski, TN, the dot on the map that gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1800s.

This could have been Miss Lucy and me in Mama's kitchen. (Click image for attribution.)
This could have been Miss Lucy and me in Mama’s kitchen. (Click image for attribution.)

It was here I realized that fear drove the feelings of prejudice and racism, and I was startled in a psychology class to come across the word “xenophobia.”  My eyes literally popped open as did my mind.  Now I knew why my mother behaved as she did toward our sweet Miss Lucy, an African-American woman who cared for Mama and me when Mama was not well several times during my childhood.

It wasn’t that Mama didn’t like Lucy.  She was afraid, filled with fear.  Mama feared Lucy might not be as hygienically responsible as she should be, or she might have germs to pass along from a home not quite as clean as it should be.  The basis for her fear?  Simply the color of Lucy’s skin.

If you haven’t read the book, The Help by Katherine Stockwell, you should.  Stockwell’s story line unfolds and gives an honest look at the south of the 1960s, just about the time I was in college.  Her character treatments of those employing African-American women to work in their homes is so accurate that it brought tears to my eyes.

Click image for attribution.
Click image for attribution.

There is much more I could write on xenophobe and xenophobia, but time and space beg that I finalize this and get it posted so you can read it.  I hope it helps you see how a xenophobic character could build tension into a story line or put a different twist on a plot your might be developing.

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Note:  I am traveling April 25th through 29th and will not have Internet access.  I will respond to your comments as I can when I return.

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