To what extent is xenophobia a natural and normal behaviour?

It sounds contentious, I know, but I was thinking. For hundreds of thousands of years, whenever a stranger came to town or strangers, it was bad news. Most of them came to conquer, enslave, rape, steal and murder. They burnt villages, destroyed crops, brought new diseases and wiped out whole populations. This has always been the case, and only in the last century have we started questioning at all whether this was a good thing or not.

Now, in modern multi-cultural cities, where people from all over the world have been living shoulder-to-shoulder, people are starting to realise that we are all basically the same. They value one another for their similarities and differences. In many places, however, there is not so much of a cultural melting pot as in big cities, and many countries, cities and towns still exist with relatively little exposure to foreigners and foreign culture. Is it not normal and natural then, that these people are still finding it difficult to throw off hundreds of thousands of years of conditioning?

I know that we are rational creatures and can learn quickly, but cannot we accept that the attitudes so often displayed by racist individuals or groups are, although undesirable in this modern world, at least natural and normal?

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