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"Hate" is an old word, going all the way back to Anglo-Saxon (Old English). "Hate group" and "hate crime" sharply narrow the meaning of the word.

Don’t Be a Hater: Hate Groups and Hate Crimes After 9/11 and Ferguson

Black Lives Matter protest in Union Square, NYC
Black Lives Matter protest in Union Square, New York City, July 10, 2016. Photo by Jon Sobel, Critical Lens Media

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the venerable racial justice watchdog known for classifying “hate groups” as such, has judged that an entity called White Lives Matter is indeed a hate group.

But what does that mean? What do they, and we, mean when we use that loaded word “hate”?

Hate groups, according to the SPLC’s website, “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” That’s a fair and well-expressed definition. But it’s much narrower than the intense but vague word “hate,” which the Oxford English Dictionary defines simply as “an emotion of extreme dislike or aversion.”

“Hate” is an old word, going all the way back to Anglo-Saxon (Old English). The feeling, of course, is as old as humanity – and as new as the forms popular among today’s teens: “hater” (as in “Don’t be a”), and “hate on” (to hate with a suggestion of action).

“Hate group” is really something else entirely. Such a group avows a belief in the supremacy of one group over others. Its members don’t necessarily hate the people they denigrate in an intense emotional way. They may just want to be rid of them.

Sometimes these groups express their desires in a passive-aggressive formulation. White Lives Matter’s website describes a supposed “white genocide” in which “mass third world immigration, integration by force, and 24/7 race mixing propaganda are being promoted in all and only white countries to deliberately turn them non-white.”

That same narrow sense of the word “hate” is also present in the legal term “hate crime,” coined in the 1980s, according to the National Institute of Justice, “by journalists and policy advocates who were attempting to describe a series of incidents directed at Jews, Asians and African-Americans. Since 9/11 and even more so since the rise of Islamic State terrorism and the wave of Middle Eastern and North African immigration to Europe, Muslims in the West have been increasingly victimized by hate crimes.

The FBI defines a hate crime as “a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.” Thus, in this context, bias, or prejudice, is equivalent to hate.

However, commission of a violent crime against an individual makes it easy to believe true personal hate is involved.

Last night in Queens, NY, a 60-year-old woman was stabbed to death near her home by an unknown assailant. Because she was a Muslim, the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Unit is investigating.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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