The Rhetorical Limitations of Hate

Uncategorized Sep 04, 2023

At the Institute, we are fueled by an ethic of love: love for our students, love for our communities, and love for ourselves. It is love, rather than fear or control or indoctrination, which fuels our pedagogy. For more on our ethic of love, check out our previous blog post

This blog post is addressing our imaginations and language and the material implications of our language. We acknowledge the very concrete impacts of imagination. As adrienne maree brown wrote in Emergent Strategy: “Imagination gives us borders, gives us superiority, gives us race as an indicator of ability. I often feel I am trapped inside someone else's capability. I often feel I am trapped inside someone' else's imagination, and I must engage my own imagination in order to break free.” While this may seem like a mere reflection on semantics, we know that words and ideology fuel culture and systems. 

The false binary of love versus hate does not serve us. Language like “Stop Asian Hate” conjures too much individual feelings, too much intentional derision. Yes, acts of violence can be performed by individuals. But as we dream to make love systemic, we also see the limitations of hate. The language of hate fuels the false notion that “changing hearts and minds” must be the first step in transformation towards equity. 

Saying “Hate Has No Home Here” allows individuals and institutions to wash their hands of anti-Asian or anti-Black or anti-trans bias or anti-fat bias without a) interrogating the biases baked into interactions and operations; and b) affirming what these individuals or institutions are affirmatively for

The legal parameters of “hate crimes” illuminate the limitations of the United States’ carceral logics. Punishing hate or disappearing haters does not eradicate the so-called hate. As Dr. King asked at Jimmie Lee Jackson’s funeral after he was murdered by state troopers  in 1965: “How many other fingers were on that trigger? Every white lawman who abuses the law to terrorize! Every white politician who feeds on prejudice and hatred!” The hatred is allowed and enabled by the state and then arbitrarily punished in a way that keeps us confused and thinking that these systems love us, when they don’t.

The words of Holocaust survivor and author Elie Weisel are often quoted: “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” Elie Weisel’s invocation of indifference is the passive denial of hate without the active (re)clamation of love. Love is fierce, love is protective, love is creative/creation. We embrace an ethic and pedagogy of love, and push those who denounce “hate” to get more specific and more loving.


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