When Hate Comes to Campus-The Psychology of Hate:  Responding to Bias, Bigotry, and Racism

By Allan M. Hoffman


Educational organizations  do not exist in a vacuum unaffected  by social issues in the larger community in which they exist. The news media, numerous on-line social platforms, and other communication sources stress and focus on hate.  Overt expressions of hate have now become acceptable forms of communication. Recent issues of racist and hateful activity have emerged and have forced educators to become actively engaged in effective intervention and negotiating conflict creatively. 

How can teachers cope with this the dynamic shift in classroom and school behavior?  This paper presents examples of defining the psychology of hate as a specific learned behavior that differs from other psychological emotions and presents viable and workable solutions.


Why Do People Hate?

As an educator, therapist and humanist,  I have often wondered why people hate. Is hate an innate characteristic that is deeply rooted in our DNA or is it a learned behavior?  Is there a specific psychology of hate and, if  so, does it differ from  other emotions? Before actually addressing the question of why people hate and what can be done to counteract hate, let’s review some of the current data of hate as it  presently exists . 

The Southern Poverty Law Center in a publication, Responding to Hate and Bias at School,  describes several situations that are relevant to this analysis.

  • A swastika  20 feet in diameter is burned  on the pavement at a Jewish high school.
  • A noose is  found hanging from a goal post on a high school campus.
  • a group of white high school students dress in banana suits for a basketball game and taunt… black students with racists slurs.
  • a Sikh  student has his turban pulled off and his hair is cut by his fellow students. 

 These are selected examples of the current situation in schools and in the community. There are many others I can cite.


Has There Been an Increase in Racial and Religious Prejudice?

In their annual report on Hate, the Southern Poverty Law Center has  documented that  over 733 active hate groups presently operate in the US. Law Center documented 733 active ha

It has been hypothesized  that racial and religious prejudice played  a critical role in the election of President Donald Trump.  Seeking to answer this question,  researchers Benjamin C. Ruisch and Melissa J. Fergusson examined the results of over 13 studies, having over 10,000 participants,  that sought to determine if  change in Americans religious and racial prejudice changed after the 2016 election of President Trump. After an extensive review of data, the researchers found that racial and religious prejudice increased among those that supported Donald Trump, while prejudice decreased among those that opposed him. Based on a review of these studies, the authors  concluded that research clearly suggests the presidency   of Donald Trump substantially reshaped the typography of prejudice in the United States. ( Changes in Americans Prejudice During the Presidency of Donald Trump in Nature Human Behavior February 21, 2022 )


What is Hate?

Hate as defined in the Marriam  Webster.com dictionary ( February 2022) is an intense hostility and aversion and extreme dislike or disgust directed specifically to an individual or group. Although this definition provides a basis for explaining  hate, it  is not comprehensive enough to gain an understanding of exactly what hate is. Hate is a highly emotional state and stable feeling within those that are experiencing the  emotion of  hate. Hate  differs significantly from other emotions such as anger.  Hate is an active, relatively stable emotional feeling that does not dissipate over time.  Anger on the other, may be short lived and directed more toward an individual or  a situation rather than the entire group. Hate in comparison is an ongoing and continuous state where the hater may fixate on another person or an entire group. Hate maybe directed toward an entire group. Haters tend to focus  on what  someone is rather  than what someone may have done.


What is the Current Scope of Hate?

The US Department of Justice (2017) in their most recent report has estimated  that over 250,000 hate crimes are  committed each year in the United States between  2004 – 2015. The US Department of Justice estimates that a  vast majority of hate crimes go unreported. Of those crimes, the  DOJ estimates that over 48%  are racially motivated. The  DOJ hate crime notes  that crimes are committed on the basis of the victims perceived or actual race, color, national origin ,religion sexual orientation and gender, gender identification or disability.  Hate  is generally within the spectrum of human emotions.  


Can Hate be Sustained by the Hater?

In  a 2016 study  authors Nor Keithley and Emil Renaud suggest that hatred is directly correlated when one group tends to dehumanize another group by viewing them as less civilized or evolved as themselves. (Backlash: The Politics in Real World Consequences of Minority Group Dehumanization  in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin-Nov 2016,) Dehumanization  is critical factor that may predict hostile or violent actions against a group that is hated. Hatred , as previously noted, is an intense emotional feeling directed toward an individual or group. Dehumanization provides the hater with a rationale to direct their hate to others. In the examples of hate actions described in this document, the perpetrators of hate dehumanized their victims and believe they deserve to be mistreated because of their differences.


Why Do People Hate?

According to a study in the Good Therapy blog (2022) people hate an individual or group when the following occurs;

  1. have  learned hatred from parents,  from their community, or from their social groups 
  2. feel envy  or want what the other person has
  3. have contempt for another person or feel them  to be inferior to themselves
  4. are  humiliated or mistreated by another person or group 
  5. feel a sense of powerlessness (GoodTherapy.org May, 2022)

We know that hatred is a learned behavior. People are not born hating another person or group. The question becomes as educators, members of the community dedicated to peace and justice, as law enforcement, clergy and members of the community ,how can we counteract hatred and end bias, bigotry, and racism? The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks, reports and helps prevent hate in America has identified 10 factors that are relevant to this discussion and can be implemented to fight hate:


1: ACT Do Something

In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public, and — worse — the victims. Community members must take action; if we don’t, hate persists. 


Reach out to allies from churches, synagogues, mosque, schools, colleges, clubs, and
other community and civic groups. 


Hate crime victims are especially vulnerable. If you’re a victim, report every incident — in detail — and ask for help. If you learn about a hate crime victim in your community, show support. Let victims know you care.


Hate must be exposed and denounced. Help news organizations achieve balance and depth. Do not debate hate group members in conflict-driven forums. Instead, speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity. 


5: Educate Yourself

An informed campaign improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved, and research its symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident.


6:  Create an Alternative

Do not attend a hate rally. Find another outlet for anger and frustration and for people’s desire to do something. Hold a unity rally or parade to draw media attention away from hate.


7: Pressure Leaders
Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies. But some must overcome reluctance — and others, their own biases — before they’re able to take a stand. The fight against hate needs community leaders willing to take an active role. The support of mayors, police chiefs, college presidents, school principals, local clergy, business leaders, and others can help your community address the root causes of hate and help turn bias incidents into experiences from which your community can learn and heal.

8: Stay Engaged:

Promote acceptance and address bias before another hate crime can occur. Expand your comfort zone by reaching out to people outside your own groups. Hate usually doesn’t strike communities from some distant place. It often begins at home, brewing silently under the surface. It can grow out of divided communities — communities where residents feel powerless or voiceless, communities where differences cause fear instead of celebration.


9: Teach Acceptance

Bias is learned early, often at home. Schools can offer lessons of tolerance and acceptance. Host a diversity and inclusion day on campus. Reach out to young people who may be susceptible to hate group propaganda and prejudice. Bias is learned in childhood. By age 3, children can be aware of racial differences and may have the perception that “white” is desirable. By age 12, they can hold stereotypes about ethnic, racial, and religious groups, or LGBT people. Because stereotypes underlie hate, and because almost half of all hate crimes are committed by young men under 20, tolerance education is critical.

10: Dig Deep Within Yourself:

Look inside yourself for biases and stereotypes.

Commit to disrupting hate and intolerance at home, at school, in the workplace, and in faith communities. Acceptance, fundamentally, is a personal decision. It comes from an attitude that is learnable and embraceable: a belief that every voice matters, that all people are valuable, that no one is “less than.” ( Southern Poverty Law Center-Ten ways to fight hate: A Community Response -August 2017)

Hate, specifically hate crimes, seem to have become the norm in American culture and society. As peace activists we must identify  hate in all its forms  and work to help communities develop strategies to cope and counteract hate wherever ever and  ever it occurs.



Dr. Allan Hoffman, is an educator and health services executive with over 40 years of extensive executive level experience leading and managing higher educational and health care organizations. His experience includes serving as president, CEO, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of Health Sciences and Nursing, and tenured professor. His faculty appointments include family medicine, medical education, public health and healthcare administration. Currently he serves as a member of the Registry for College and University Presidents which is an organization dedicated to higher education placing experienced key executives for interim roles.

Over his career he also has served as Founding President of the proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences which was committed to serving the needs of underserved populations by ameliorating health disparities, President of the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute, CEO of the Arizona Campuses of Ottawa University, Dean and Professor, California State University , and interim president of Mount Carmel College of Nursing , Columbus, Ohio , interim Dean of Health Sciences, University of California, and interim president of the Institute for Clinical Social Work , Chicago, Ill. Allan is fully committed to and values Social Justice working to end bias, bigotry and racism and preventing violence in the community. While serving as Dean of the College of Health Sciences, he was the founder and first Director of the Center for the Prevention of Community Violence at Des Moines University. The Center was established to be a research, programmatic, and community resource. He received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for his work in violence prevention and an Award from the National Office of Drug Control Policy for the work of the Center.

Allan has published on violence prevention issues and provided volunteer service in the US, the Caribbean region, East Africa .He has provided volunteer services with Empower Tanzania working with the Maasai Tribe in Tanzania on a project to prevent Gender Based Violence. His publication on Domestic Violence: A Global View (Greenwood Publishers) was featured by the United Nations during the global initiative on preventing violence against women and children. Dr. Hoffman is the recipient of numerous awards and honors associated with his teaching and his efforts to prevent violence and resolve conflict creatively.

In addition to his front-line experience working in higher education leadership, Dr. Hoffman has researched and published on key issues in higher education leadership with a focus on innovations within higher education, leadership, managing and total quality improvement. He has provided consulting services to schools, colleges, and healthcare organizations in multinational settings. His most recent book, Innovations in Higher Education, is part of the Higher Education Series of the American Council on Education. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his teaching leadership and service, served as a coach and mentor particularly to under-represented persons interested in entering higher education leadership roles.