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I Hate “Hate”

December 16, 2009

“Hate,” I would argue, is not that useful a category for understanding privilege and oppression. I have male privilege, white privilege, and hetero privilege, and I probably unintentionally do lots of things that reproduce my privileges. For instance, every time I give female friends a hug but give male friends a handshake, I’m reinforcing sexual difference in a way that is almost always hierarchical. I’m contributing to male privilege by these little micro-actions.

But I obviously don’t hate women. Hate is a strong emotion, and one that I reserve for the New England Patriots and for Kelly Clarkson (not really). I can reproduce the forms of privilege I enjoy without ever experiencing hatred toward those who don’t benefit from those forms of privilege.

In addition, focusing on hate prevents people in dominant positions from recognizing privilege. I meet thousands of white people who benefit from and probably reproduce white privilege in innumerable ways, but who do not experience feelings of hatred toward people of color.

Denouncements of “hate” give them an easy out: “I don’t hate black people like the KKK does, so I’m obviously not part of the problem.”

I would say the same goes for people who frame discussion of gay rights in terms of hatred—conservatives know they don’t experience hatred toward their gay friends.

In sum, I think emphasis on the word “hate” results in this: “I know I don’t hate, so there’s no reason for me to worry about this,” or worse, “they think I hate them; I know I don’t, so they’re obviously wrong and I can dismiss their obviously misguided ‘agenda.'”

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Beelzebub permalink
    December 16, 2009 1:20 pm

    “I don’t hate them, I just think they’re inferior/against nature/what have you. I pity them. How could I hate someone I pity?”

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    December 16, 2009 1:22 pm

    Yea, there’s that too …

  3. Jonathan permalink
    December 16, 2009 7:55 pm

    Right on about the Patriots.

  4. Carla permalink
    December 16, 2009 9:57 pm

    Excellent, excellent post.

    And megadittos on the Patriots. Buffalo all the way!

  5. December 17, 2009 1:15 pm

    “Denouncements of ‘hate’ give them an easy out: ‘I don’t hate black people like the KKK does, so I’m obviously not part of the problem.'”

    That’s it, right there!

    I struggle with this on a personal level with family members of mine, particularly with my mother to whom I lock heads with the most. To me, I think it is usually the case that my arguments are brushed off as if I’m accusing her of “hate”, making it that much easier for her to tell herself I’m misunderstanding her positions on things like gay rights or racism. I go out of my way to make a point of *never* making such unhelpful emotionalist arguments of reducing her thought to merely intentional and/or well thought out “hate” or “malice” –rather, I always attempt to draw conclusions from more systemic roots.

    What makes it all the more frustrating are such platitudes that she readily admits to and thinks are worthy defenses to her positions… such concepts as “hate the sin, love the sinner” with regards to homosexuality (she’s a Catholic, by the way) or accepting racial stereo-types as reflective of reality on the whole.

    Anyways, sorry to rant.


    Thanks for putting it in such a good way.

    A question to think about: how do we talk about these issues to the sorts of people that are apt to put us into the whole “you think I hate them but I don’t really hate-hate them…” strawman?

  6. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    December 18, 2009 12:42 pm

    Thanks for the positive feedback!

    I don’t know about your question. My only suggestions are to do what you’ve already said you do (focus on systemic issues, rather than individual/personal ones), to insist that you’re not accusing them of hatred, and to have patience.

  7. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    December 18, 2009 12:43 pm

    Also, there’s this:

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