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Hate crimes and misdemeanors

The race for the White House sheds new light on old issues of racial, gender and political self-loathing



"Let me tell you the story of right hand, left hand. It is a tale of good and evil. Hate. It was with this hand that Cain iced his brother." — Radio Raheem, Do The Right Thing

Love and hate often work hand in hand. And we live in a society that exhibits the precariousness of this relationship in many ways; romantic relationships, friendships and professional spaces are just a few. How many of us have dated someone we love and loathe at the same time? How many of us have witnessed "best friends" turn on each other and treat each other worse than they ever treated any real or perceived enemy? How many of us work at a place where we love the people but hate the job -- or vice versa?

One space that this uncomfortable relationship exists in a more profound sense is in the public sphere, most notably popular culture. One only has to examine the relationship that the media has with its celebrities; these institutions work together to simultaneously build these figures up while tearing them down.

We have witnessed on multiple occasions the "fall from grace" that many stars experience, whether warranted or not. Love quickly turns to hate with a misstep, misdeed or just plain overexposure. Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, Don Imus, Tom Cruise, O.J. Simpson, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Kanye West are celebrities many love and hate with the same amount of furor.

As of late, the interconnectedness of love and hate is most visible in the race for the White House -- most notably in the cases of senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain. When it comes to these candidates, hate crimes are in abundance; although the term "hate crime" in this instance refers to words or actions that are symbolically criminal in terms of how they are carried out against someone or the consequences intended.

Many argue that Clinton and Obama are the first viable female and African-American United States presidential candidates. In a country that's experienced a serious love/hate relationship with women and blacks, it's exciting to witness history being made in politics and society. Who would have imagined it? A black man and a woman slated to be the presidential nominee for a major political party? Of course, this pair is not unprecedented in their run for the office of president. American suffragist Victoria Claflin Woodhull ran for president in 1872. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Socialist Workers Party leader Linda Jenness and philosopher/social critic Evelyn Reed ran in 1972. The Rev. Jesse Jackson ran for president in 1984 and 1988. (In 1988, he captured 6.9 million votes and won seven primaries in the Democratic primaries.)

Clinton and Obama are not new, just different. And they're running at a time when people are seemingly ready for a black or female president. But Clinton has come under attack for her association with her husband, her appearance, her "masculinity" and for being a "bitch." Obama has come under attack for lack of experience, not being black enough, having a name that is "too black" and skipping over more seasoned black political candidates and civil rights activists.

On the other hand, Sen. McCain has finally moved from the margins to the center, taking the top slot of the Republican Party. While he is respected by many Democrats and Republicans, he has been admonished for his age, his military service record has been attacked and he has been rebuked by the GOP "base" for not being a "true conservative." Even staunch Republican Chuck Norris questioned his ability to live long enough to serve out a presidential term, when endorsing Mike Huckabee.

Love and hate are working side by side as it relates to these candidates. Women love Hillary Rodham Clinton for the same reasons that they hate her: her success in male-dominated arenas and the fact that she takes herself seriously. Blacks actually love Barack Obama to death, but he has been "hated on" by a few prominent blacks, most notably BET founder and Charlotte Bobcats owner Robert L. Johnson. Republicans love John McCain, but hardcore conservative Republicans hate his guts. When dissecting this phenomenon of love and hate, it's ironically interesting to note that these candidates are getting hated on by their own people -- and in a very public way.

"So, how do we beat the 'bitch?'" -- A female supporter, in a reference to Hillary Clinton, at a John McCain campaign rally in South Carolina

Why is it that women hate on women and blacks hate on blacks? Dr. Margret Grebowicz, assistant professor of philosophy at Goucher College says, "Oppressed groups internalize the stakes of oppression. When people operate within an essentialist framework, they do not see these behaviors as oppressive, they do not see them for what they really are." Many members of disenfranchised groups believe that there is only one way to be female or black and if you do not fit that mold, then you do not count. Additionally, some embrace the stereotypes that are associated with their group, acting them out and punishing those who resist or challenge them.

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