F or any observer of conflicts around the world, the pattern is a familiar one: neighbours who previously shared meals and evenings together become sworn enemies in a matter of weeks. They become - or rather are constructed as - the ultimate ‘other’, an outsider who does not deserve to be treated in the same way as immediate kin. The consequences can be deadly, as the siege of Sarajevo and the Rwandan genocide demonstrated, albeit in different circumstances.
Fear of the other does not have to play out in violence to detract from people’s wellbeing. For example, discrimination against people with an immigrant background distorts job markets in many countries.
However, a danger particularly emerges when cultural and ethnic differences are abused by those espousing hate speech. Europe has recently (and in the past) witnessed just that, with far-right groups stirring up loathing and in some cases violence against immigrants or those of different faiths. Looking across the Atlantic, many observers accuse the new US president of fostering xenophobia.
Breaking this cycle is no easy feat. One step must be to counter narratives that divide by showcasing the economic and cultural benefits that our richly diverse modern societies bring. The media has a big role to play in that.
In this week’s cover story, reporter Marta Rodriguez investigates how the issue of racism plays out differently in Latin America, one of the most ethnically diverse places in the world.
Editor-in-Chief, The World Weekly
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