Xenophobia = Chauvinism, intolerance, racism, prejudice; it makes or breaks character, and fiction.
Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah Winfrey, Norma Ray, the suffragettes, gay men and women...past and present examples of real-life individuals and groups fighting for recognition, respect, and the same rights persons of other colors, genders, or marital status, enjoy. And whether we like it or not, xenophobia is necessary to certain types of fiction, in particular historical.The men and women of earlier eras did not think and behave, or experience the same privileges we do now. In Canada, women have had the right to vote in federal elections for less than one hundred years. 1918 was the year the Canadian Government passed the Women's Franchise Act. American women had to wait a little a longer--August 26, 1920 to be exact. In Britain, women gained a partial victory when women over thirty-years-of-age who met minimum property qualifications were granted the right to vote; their younger, and less affluent brethren had to wait another ten years to achieve the same entitlement. And though it's unlikely any of the women old enough to cast a vote in those initial election years are still alive, their victory is relatively recent when measured against centuries of recorded human history; and antique privilege when held up against the existing fight for gay marriage and against racism and religious persecution.
So, when writing fiction, whether historical or contemporary, do your homework. And don't always play nice.
Good fiction, especially historical fiction, contains elements of bad behavior and politically incorrect policy; don't be afraid to write it like it was. When reading historical fiction, please, resist the urge to judge character behavior, thought, and language against today's standards. What we value now was not necessarily valued then, just as our accomplishments and failures of today will no doubt be some future writer or reader's head-shaking research of bygone days. And if you want to read excellent fiction where historical fact is seamlessly weaved into great story, check out Diana Gabaldon. She's truly one of the masters of historical fiction.
Our ignorance of history makes us libel to our own times. People have always been like this. ~ Gustave Flaubert (1860-1880)