many psychological disorders afflicting visible minorities, none
is more unforgiving than self-hatred. To know oneself as self-hating
can be an unbearable humiliation from which there is often no
escape – other than self-deception. Belgium
surrealist René Magritte has a painting of a man who looks
into the mirror and sees the back of his head. The self-hating
are of this ilk.
are the feelings associated with self-hatred that even among themselves
the self-hating cannot speak of it. Unlike the thief who cries
hunger, or the rapist provocation, the self-hater has no recourse
because he refuses to admit to his condition. For this reason,
being self-hating is arguably the most incarcerating of psychological
states. Unable to forge meaningful links with the world at large,
the self-hater retreats into the solipsistic world of his minority
group, only to find himself condemned to face feelings more powerful
and obdurate than his powers of understanding. Every effort to
escape himself (to become invisible), like the man trying to lose
his shadow, meets with failure. The accumulated frustration takes
its toll. The self-hater evolves a gait and grammar singular to
his anguish and impotence; and a patent smile that conceals a
not-so-secret death wish. Is it any wonder the self-hating end
up contracting their ‘Weltanshauung’ (world view)
into an ‘us’ and ‘them?’
enfeebled lungs to an oxygen tank, the self-hating, desperate
to lose themselves in the sea of their own kind, reflexively congregate
to insulate themselves against the intolerance which gives rise
to self-hatred, only to discover that the community which makes
it possible for them to enjoy invisibility, as it consolidates
and expands, ironically gains in visibility, and becomes an even
easier target for all sorts of misguided but often lethal causes.
as no surprise that the positive tolerance practiced among like-members
of minorities is inversely proportionate to the intolerance practiced
against them. Thus, the Jews, as history’s most notoriously
persecuted minority, are probably the most self-hating as well
as mutually supportive, a development that partially redeems the
stereotype of ghettos that thrive as safe zones for the self-hating.
AND INAUTHENTIC SELF-HATRED
etiology of self-hatred remains obscure, it is because the afflicted
have been stubbornly unwilling to admit to, much less speak about
their sickness of being. And of the few that do come out, unlike
gays, it’s not to celebrate their condition but to overcome
it, only to discover that the road to self-esteem is not only
a straight, up-hill climb, but it has almost disappeared from
view, so untravelled is it.
is not a nightmare from which one suddenly awakens. It is a war
of attrition against a negative self-image that requires nothing
less than a complete interrogation of one’s core assumptions
and values. And even this may not be enough. The bitter roots
of self-hatred often extend to long forgotten or repressed childhood
self-hating there are three types. Type A’s self-hatred
is externally caused. It is a consequences of intolerance practiced
against him as an individual of a minority or his minority as
an entity. He comes to hate himself because others hate him. Type
A has no self, is hostage to public perception and is ‘inauthentic’
in his being. Most self-haters are Type As.
B’s self-hatred is ‘authentic’ because he is
the source. He comes to hate himself as a member of a minority
because it espouses beliefs or principles with which he disagrees.
A minority member who deplores his group’s derogation of
women may come to despise his membership in that group. He can
then decide to either attempt to modify the principles of his
group, or convert to another whose values are more commensurate
with his own, or forgo altogether belonging to a group. A Muslim’s
conversion to Catholicism is authentic when after having interrogated
his own values he concludes they coincide with those of Catholicism.
The conversion is inauthentic when the Muslim, self-hating as
a consequence of intolerance, converts merely to be relieved of
his self-hatred. The ideal member of a minority would be so constituted
that he would choose to become a member of that group if he were
not already one. A group that forbids free association, or restricts
membership, may cultivate authentic self-hating members for those
of self-hatred thrives where visible members gather to become
invisible. In particular, it preys on the young.
seek approval; their behaviour is conditioned by reward and punishment.
When a youngster discovers he is disliked (intolerated) for being
a member of a minority, he will ‘reflexively’ attempt
to modify himself to win approval. When he rudely learns he cannot
change his pigmentation, ethnic or religious affiliation, his
only recourse is to turn to his imaginative faculties, and with
‘impunity’ yearn ‘not to be’ what he is.
In this yearning, self-hatred is born, drawing its first breath
for perhaps the life-time to come. Experiencing it as only a youngster
can – in the full force of the present – he will go
to great lengths to avoid situations which provoke self-hatred
and collateral feelings of powerlessness and low self-esteem.
It is no surprise that youngsters of minorities band together
to insulate themselves from unlike members.
youngster, the hapless heir to his parents’ or community’s
negative self-image, is not responsible for his self-hatred. He
does not choose to be born into his ethnic or racial group. He
does not choose to be self-hating, merely the unreflected response
to intolerance. Lacking the cognitive maturity to expose the false
claims of self-hatred, it is all too predictable that youngsters
subjected to intolerance become self-hating. That they are condemned
to grow up feeling ashamed of themselves is surely regrettable,
but never shameful.
however, is existentially responsible for who he is. In exercising
free choice, the self-hating adult ‘chooses’ to remain
in self-hatred because he chooses to leave the question of his
self-hatred unexamined. He persuades himself that if he ignores
or denies the condition it will simply go away – a wishful
thinking that leads him to seek out his own cloistered kind, but
at the expense of a world that is reduced to his blinkered conception
of it. So in turning away from self-hatred, which is always a
turning toward self-deception, the adult is forever haunted by
it. All the major decisions of his life, his choice of career,
his social milieu are informed by his negative self-image.
there is a symmetrical cause and effect relationship between career
success and high self-esteem predicts that a disproportionate
number of minority members will achieve 'exceptional' career success
to compensate for 'exceptionally' low self-esteem. Type C emerges
with a split-personality: he remains self-hating as a consequences
of intolerance, but he is also self-esteeming as a consequence
of career success. The newer self, now much admired and rewarded
for his accomplishments, may discover that the self-esteem conferred
by a successful career provides such lasting relief from self-hatred,
he may take to it (his work) like a drug – a disguised death-wish.
In his obsession to vanquish the self-hater he is, he is driven
to achieve exceptional career success (often inconsiderate of
health and family). And if at the end of the day he is handsomely
rewarded for his industry, the twisted motivation that underlies
his activity remains hidden and of no practical interest to society
do we judge the self-hater who has achieved great career success
which allows him to be self-esteeming? He may believe himself
to be de facto free from the shackles of self-hatred,
but his self-esteem is at best problematic since it doesn't originate
from within: he is still very much hostage to public opinion.
The activity which he believes allows him to work out his self-hatred
is instead a direct effect of it. And no matter how masterfully
carried out, it always proceeds from what he is – self-hating.
individuals, self-hatred is so unbearable, the victim resorts
to what he would normally regard as unconscionable conduct in
order to deliver himself from the milieu he erroneously holds
responsible for his self-loathing. If quiet defection to another
group is the least offensive public expression of self-hatred,
its ugly and not uncommon counterpart has the self-hater transferring
his private self-hatred to his group as a whole. In denouncing
his own group, he instead becomes the author of intolerance –
a practice by which he hopes to disassociate himself from his
minority identity -- only to discover that he cannot run away
from himself, while becoming a source of shame and embarrassment
to his group as a whole.
acceptable means of coping is for minority members to inure themselves
against intolerance through the mechanism of the ethnic huddle.
In small groups, ethnics gather together and playfully mock their
own cultural characteristics. In an atmosphere calculated to induce
catharsis, they invoke the epithets and pejoratives by which the
group is negatively identified. These self-inflicted blows, many
of which are delivered with humour, serve the purpose of toughening
up the minority’s fragile psyche, so when these same slurs
are received from the outside, they will have less impact on the
now callused self-hater. (Afro Americans invoking the ‘n’-word
ad nauseam). However therapeutically beneficial is the
ethnic huddle in providing some immunity against intolerance,
its origins are inauthentic because it does not address the causes
of self-hatred. Self-hatred is authentic only when it is self-directed.
the 21st century already upon us, two demographic trends are very
much in evidence: unprecedented world-wide migration and significantly
higher birth rates among immigrants and refugees, which predict
that minority groups will occupy an increasing percentage of any
host country’s population; and that the self-hatred that
uniquely afflicts visible minorities will continue to thrive unchecked
unless community leaders finally grant the problem the severity
it deserves. As long as ethnic communities continue to serve as
island fortresses or places of refuge for the self-hating, the
damage done is only going to get worse.
communities are to find their place in the sun, they must find
the will to purge themselves of what is inauthentic in their self-definition
in order to create values around which individuals gather wilfully
and enthusiastically, where adults can be healed and the young
taught to be whole. This presupposes that the virus of self-hated
has been identified and its crippling effects brought into the
open, a daunting challenge whose success or failure bears directly
on the social health of any host country.