These days, when people in America think of hate, they tend to think of racism. After a bit of a pause, they will probably think of sexism. While sexism has no doubt been around since there have been men and women, what is now considered racism is a fairly recent phenomenon.
A look back at history does reveal that prior the the modern forms of racism and sexism, people still hated each other. For example, the Romans so hated Carthage that they destroyed it and salted the ruins. The ancient Greeks and the Persians were not very fond of one another, and there were other historical hatreds between nations.
Naturally, there was also considerable hatred between individuals over various matters. The causes of such hatreds are generally similar to those of today: real wrongs, perceived wrongs, or that good old fashioned hate without any real reason.
In these days of sensitivity, the definition of hate has been expanded considerable, so that even saying mean things is seen by some folks as a hate crime. Of course, plenty of old fashioned style hate remains-the sort of hate that leads to injury and death.
Since I am a professional philosopher and also rather like history, I have done some modest research into hate across the ages. While my investigation is hardly a rigorous study (and is funded only by loose change), the main finding is that hate is a constant across human history. What changes are the particulars of the hatred, such as the insulting terms, stereotypes and who hates who.
Some aspects of hatred are no doubt rooted in biology. After all, animals seem to be capable of intense dislike, even hatred and they are not subject to the social conditioning of human society. Humans presumably also have hardwiring for hate. Of course, what a person hates is determined by more than biology.
Some types of hate are based on personal experience and some are even justified. For example, if someone murders your best friend, hating that person would be justified. Some hatreds are based on personal experience, but are overblown. For example, a guy may hate a woman because she is not interested in him. These hatreds are most likely just part of what we are, although wisdom and moral decency enjoin us to resist such hatreds. However, the capacity to hate seems to be part of all of us.
Some hatreds are intentionally and artificially generated and cultivated. For example, many theorists claim that modern racism was shaped as a political and social tool to justify such evil things as slavery and the conquest of the new world. To use a specific example, the inhabitants of North America were often initially cast as “noble savages” who were free of the corruption of the European cities. However, that stereotype was rapidly replaced by the stereotype of the “savage redskin” when the Europeans found that the new world had stuff well worth taking (like land and gold).
In some cases, we have clear evidence of campaigns of hate. The era of WWII exemplifies this. Naturally, Hitler’s campain against the Jews (which built on pre-existing hatred) is the main example. However, the American’s casting the Japanese as “Japs” and the Japanese regarding Koreans and Chinese as subhuman are also examples. In our time, the campaigns of hate continue. In some cases, these are based on religion (hatred between sects and faiths), in some cases they are based on politics (hate campaigns against liberals, for example), and there are numerous other examples as well.
If history is any indication, hate will thrive for as long as we do. While people point to the dilution of sexism and racism, both still live on. Also, as we keep old hates alive, we also create new ones. Perhaps hate, like the speed of light, is a constant.